Georgia Bulldogs: amari cooper
Winston tops his list, but he also had four players from the SEC -- Georgia running back Todd Gurley, Auburn quarterback Nick Marshall, Alabama running back T.J. Yeldon and Missouri wide receiver Dorial Green-Beckham -- on there.
I like all four of those choices, and it should be noted that like me, he doesn't see Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel or Auburn running back Tre Mason returning to school in 2014. That's why you won't find them on his list.
I think Gurley might have the best chance out of this bunch because he pretty much proved that he's one of the country's best players -- regardless of position -- when he's healthy. And he really was never 100 percent after that ankle injury, yet still managed to finish with 903 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns. He also caught 30 passes for 344 yards and five more scores.
In what could be his final year in Athens, Gurley could have a big, big year if he stays healthy.
So who are some other SEC players to keep an eye on in the Heisman race? Well it's way, way too early, but who cares? I'd love to have A&M's Mike Evans on this list, but I think after back-to-back monster seasons, Manziel's top receiving target is off to greener pastures.
1. Mike Davis, RB, South Carolina: Because I think LSU running back Jeremy Hill isn't long for the SEC and will likely take his talents to the NFL, Davis gets my top spot. He's great between the tackles, can hit the home run play on the outside and isn't too bad in the passing game. He's fourth in the SEC with 1,134 rushing yards and has 11 touchdowns. He also has caught 32 passes for 342 yards.
2. Odell Beckham Jr., WR, LSU: It might be hard for him to stay at LSU after a tremendous junior year, but if he does, he should get some early Heisman love. He'll have a new quarterback, but Beckham showed this season that he certainly has go-to talent and he'll get some extra Heisman attention with his play in the return game. Not only did Beckham catch 57 passes for 1,117 yards and eight touchdowns during the regular season, he registered 947 return yards.
3. Henry Josey, RB, Missouri: A year and a half removed from shredding his knee, Josey made the ultimate comeback with 1,074 rushing yards and 13 touchdowns. He was one of the most explosive backs in the SEC and averaged 6.6 yards per carry. More than 700 of Josey's yards came in SEC play this season. DGB will get most of the preseason love in Columbia this fall, but Josey has everything it takes to be an elite back in this league.
4. Amari Cooper, WR, Alabama: He had a relatively quiet regular season, but Cooper has what it takes to be a real superstar in this league. We saw major flashes of it during his freshman year, but nagging injuries cut his production in 2013. He caught 36 passes for 615 yards and four touchdowns, including a 99-yarder against Auburn. Cooper is a deep threat and can make the tough catches in traffic. If he's healthy, he could make a Heisman push, as he becomes the prime go-to guy for Alabama's new quarterback.
5. Maty Mauk, QB, Missouri: OK, so we've been down this path before. A lot of hype dumped on a relatively inexperienced player. Usually, it doesn't pan out. The good news for Mauk is that he got some valuable playing time during the regular season. He learned from James Franklin and then performed swimmingly in his place after Franklin missed a month with a shoulder injury. Mauk knows the offense backward and forward, is a threat to run and pass, and should still have some nice offensive weapons around him next fall. During the regular season, he threw for 1,039 yards and 10 touchdowns, and he rushed for another 156 yards and a touchdown.
These would be freshmen, redshirt freshmen and true sophomores -- or players not eligible for the 2014 NFL draft.
Of their top 25 underclassmen, 14 were from the SEC, including seven of the top 10.
In other words, don't look for the talent level in the SEC to drop off any over the next couple of years.
Not surprisingly, Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston was the No. 1 player on the list. Winston is the heavy favorite to win the Heisman Trophy on Saturday night in New York City.
Some fans might be a little surprised at who was the top SEC player on the list. Florida true freshman cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III checked in at No. 2. Granted, it was a forgettable season for the Gators, but Hargreaves was outstanding with his ability to cover and make plays. Even though he's only played one season of college football, a lot of the scouts like him as much or more than the Gators' other two heralded cornerbacks -- Marcus Roberson and Loucheiz Purifoy.
The other SEC players in the top 10 were:
- No. 4 Georgia running back Toddy Gurley
- No. 5 Alabama receiver Amari Cooper
- No. 6 Missouri receiver Dorial Green-Beckham
- No. 8 Florida defensive end Dante Fowler, Jr.
- No. 9 Alabama safety Landon Collins
- No. 10 Alabama running back T.J. Yeldon.
Ole Miss was next with three players, all members of the Rebels' top-5 2013 signing class. Receiver Laquon Treadwell was No. 16, defensive lineman Robert Nkemdiche No. 18 and offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil No. 21.
Interestingly enough, seven of the 25 players on the list were true freshmen from the SEC. One that wasn't on there and will be is Mississippi State defensive tackle Chris Jones, who blossomed as the season progressed and has a chance to be dominant.
Another true freshman from the SEC who will almost certainly play his way onto the list is LSU cornerback Rashard Robinson. Go back and watch him in the Texas A&M game and the job he did on Mike Evans. Robinson wasn't cleared academically until the week of the first game this season, so with an entire spring and an entire preseason camp under his belt next year, Robinson should emerge as one of the top cornerbacks in the SEC.
Here's a rundown of all 14 SEC players who made the list:
- 2. Vernon Hargreaves III, CB, Florida, Fr.
- 4. Todd Gurley, Georgia, RB, So.
- 5. Amari Cooper, Alabama, WR, So.
- 6. Dorial Green-Beckham, Missouri, WR, So.
- 8. Dante Fowler, Jr., Florida, DE, So.
- 9. Landon Collins, Alabama, S, So.
- 10. T.J. Yeldon, Alabama, RB, So.
- 12. A'Shawn Robinson, Alabama, DT, Fr.
- 15. O.J. Howard, Alabama, TE, Fr.
- 16. Laquon Treadwell, Ole Miss, WR, Fr.
- 18. Robert Nkemdiche, Ole Miss, DT, Fr.
- 20. Mike Davis, South Carolina, RB, So.
- 21. Laremy Tunsil, Ole Miss, OT, Fr.
- 23. Carl Lawson, Auburn, DE, Fr.
- Alabama's Amari Cooper is back to 100 percent after dealing with injuries and frustration.
- Alabama's Jeoffrey Pagan says he wants the Crimson Tide to put away LSU “as quick as possible and let some of our freshmen play.”
- LSU needs another breakout game from quarterback Zach Mettenberger against Alabama.
- Compare and contrast the offenses from Alabama and LSU.
- Missouri's Michael Sam rose from a small Texas town to become a national star.
- South Carolina's Jadeveon Clowney is frustrated by his lack of sacks this season.
- Auburn's rise doesn't surprise Tennessee coaches Tommy Thigpen and Willie Martinez, both former Tigers assistants.
- The Kansas City Star's preview of Kentucky-Missouri.
- The Los Angeles Daily News reports that Texas A&M's Kevin Sumlin is USC's top target to become its next head coach.
- Georgia freshman Quincy Mauger has risen from unheralded recruit to become the Bulldogs' only safety who has played in every game this season.
- Trenton Brown has big potential on Florida's offensive line.
- Vanderbilt sees an edge in Florida's many injuries.
- Mississippi State's Dak Prescott is carrying the load on third down.
- Video: Ole Miss coaches Matt Luke and Derrick Nix evaluate the progress being made by some of their young players this season.
3. Mizzou a legitimate contender? It’s safe to say nobody had Missouri as one of the two unbeaten teams in the SEC heading into Week 7. But after an impressive road win at Vanderbilt, the Tigers are 5-0 and finally starting to gain some respect around the league. The next three weeks will be telling, though, as they play Georgia, Florida and South Carolina.
4. LSU’s WRs versus Florida’s CBs: It’s a dream matchup for NFL scouts. LSU features what many consider to be the top wide receiver tandem in college football with Odell Beckham and Jarvis Landry. However, Florida’s Loucheiz Purifoy is arguably the top cornerback in the SEC, and playing opposite of him is freshman Vernon Hargreaves III, who already has three interceptions. The Gators are also expecting the return of corner Marcus Roberson, another one who could soon be playing on Sundays.
5. Tyler Murphy in Death Valley: Since replacing the injured Jeff Driskel at quarterback, Murphy has exceeded expectations for the Gators. In three games, he has thrown for 530 yards with five touchdowns and just one interception, and he’s progressively gotten better. However, the junior signal-caller is in for his toughest assignment yet when Florida travels to LSU this weekend. How will he perform in a hostile atmosphere?
6. The return of Cooper: When will we see the real Amari Cooper, the one who had 1,000 yards receiving as a freshman for Alabama? The star wide receiver has been slowed by nagging injuries all season, but he expects to play Saturday against Kentucky. Will he be 100 percent? Quarterback AJ McCarron would love to have him back sooner rather than later.
7. Aggies without Ennis: As if Texas A&M’s rush defense wasn’t bad enough, the Aggies lost Kirby Ennis, one of their top interior linemen, for the season with a torn ACL. The injury comes at a bad time for the Aggies, who have to visit Ole Miss this weekend and deal with Rebels running back Jeff Scott, not to mention quarterback Bo Wallace. The staff will turn to freshman Isaiah Golden, who is expected to start alongside Alonzo Williams in the middle.
8. Shootout in Oxford: The SEC has featured its fair share of shootouts early in the college football season, and Saturday’s game between Ole Miss and Texas A&M could be right up there. Both teams feature an up-tempo offense, and neither one likes to waste much time between plays. It could be a long day for both defenses.
9. Big game for Bielema: After a 3-0 start, Arkansas has quickly fallen back to .500 with three consecutive losses. However, first-year coach Brett Bielema has a chance to notch his first signature victory with the Razorbacks this Saturday when they host No. 14 South Carolina. The Gamecocks have struggled in recent weeks and could be prime for an upset. It’s likely a must-win scenario for Arkansas if the Hogs want to reach a bowl game.
10. Auburn’s quarterback: Who will start for the Tigers against Western Carolina? Starter Nick Marshall injured his knee last weekend against Ole Miss, and although he’s expected to play, coach Gus Malzahn hasn’t made a ruling one way or the other. If Marshall can’t go, Auburn will either turn to returning starter Jonathan Wallace or true freshman Jeremy Johnson.
The No. 9 Bulldogs (2-1, 1-0 SEC) know they lost any margin for error when they dropped their opener at Clemson, making Saturday's date with No. 6 LSU (4-0, 1-0) nothing less than a must-win game for Georgia.
“This is like an elimination game,” Georgia cornerback Damian Swann said. “To get to that Game 7, you've got to win Game 6 and I think this is a Game 6 for us and that's how we're going to approach it and that's how we're going to take it.”
The Bulldogs focused this week on a number of areas in need of improvement, most notably special teams, where Georgia has committed at least one glaring error in each game. Georgia coach Mark Richt opened the long snapping job for competition and said his coaching staff would re-evaluate the personnel on the various kicking units, potentially utilizing more starters on the coverage teams.
But aside from that department, this week is all about quality control for both teams -- each of which has been plagued by consistency issues. In particular, their young defenses must minimize the mistakes that characterized their play at points in the season's first month, and they must do it against opponents who establish themselves with powerful running games.
Georgia and LSU boast two of the SEC's top tailbacks in Todd Gurley (125.7 ypg, first in the SEC) and Jeremy Hill (117, third), who rushed for 184 yards in LSU's 35-21 win against Auburn last Saturday.
“It will be interesting to see who can run the ball and who can run it well,” Richt said. “Both teams are very capable of it, but on any given Saturday you don't know what's going to happen. We like ours and I'm sure they like theirs, and I like theirs and they probably like ours. They're just great players and it's going to be fun to watch.”
While both teams' main defensive objectives will be to limit the opponent's running games, overemphasizing the run could make them vulnerable to the play-action pass. Georgia's offense is perhaps a bit more potent through the air -- quarterback Aaron Murray leads the SEC with 346.7 ypg . LSU's improved passing game with quarterback Zach Mettenberger and receivers Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry will certainly test Georgia's secondary.
“I feel like we'll see a lot more of the famous play-action play Bama ran against us with Amari Cooper [for the game-winning touchdown last season],” Georgia outside linebacker Jordan Jenkins said. “I feel like if we can stop the run, then we won't be so worried about it and we can run a little bit more pressures and stunts to throw Mettenberger off his passing game. But I feel like our mindset this week is really going to be towards stopping the run and preventing them from getting that asset this game.”
Saturday's winner will likely be the team that minimizes its mistakes most effectively.
Georgia and LSU's respective resumes are among the most impressive in the league over the last few years, and their 2013 iterations appear to be evenly matched on paper. When teams like that meet, the victor is often the team that makes the fewest errors.
“You keep fighting like mad to not give up big plays,” Richt said. “You fight like mad to get turnovers. You fight like mad to find ways to get a big stop and a momentum-changing stop somewhere along the way, and that's what we're trying to do.”
- The SEC has secured bowl spots for at least 10 of its member schools starting in 2014.
- If anyone thought Alabama receiver Amari Cooper was about to slow down after a stellar freshman season, his explosive first scrimmage would indicate otherwise.
- Defensive coordinator John Chavis is fine with the many fresh faces on LSU’s rebuilt defense.
- An intriguing football triangle is taking shape between Georgia, South Carolina and Clemson.
- Tennessee running back Rajion Neal is confident that the Volunteers’ passing game will open up space for him to run.
- With Paul Finebaum returning to the airwaves today, al.com breaks down some of the infamous radio host’s most noteworthy callers who we’ve missed during his radio absence.
- Florida’s Ronald Powell is using Adrian Peterson as an example as he works to return from a season-ending knee injury suffered in spring 2012.
- James Franklin states his case for Missouri’s starting quarterback job.
- Georgia defensive end Sterling Bailey might start for the first time since high school, in 2010, when the Bulldogs open the season at Clemson.
- Approximately 5,000 people turned out for Vanderbilt’s fan day on Sunday despite the cloud of four former players having been arrested for rape hanging over the program.
- Auburn safety Justin Garrett was unable to practice on Sunday because of a foot injury.
- Speaking of Auburn, newly minted PGA champion Jason Dufner dedicated his victory to all the people in his adopted hometown.
But in terms of first-, second-, third- and fourth-team, selections, the SEC had the most with 25.
Below is a look at the SEC players making the cut:
- QB -- Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M
- RB -- Todd Gurley, Georgia
- OT -- Jake Matthews, Texas A&M
- DE -- Jadeveon Clowney, South Carolina
- LB -- C.J. Mosley, Alabama
- S -- Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Alabama
- P -- Kyle Christy, Florida
- RB -- T.J. Yeldon, Alabama
- WR -- Amari Cooper, Alabama
- WR -- Jordan Matthews, Vanderbilt
- TE -- Arthur Lynch, Georgia
- C -- Travis Swanson, Arkansas
- OT -- Cyrus Kouandjio, Alabama
- OT -- Antonio Richardson, Tennessee
- DT -- Anthony Johnson, LSU
- PR -- Marcus Murphy, Missouri
- WR -- Mike Evans, Texas A&M
- OG -- Gabe Jackson, Mississippi State
- OG -- Anthony Steen, Alabama
- CB -- Andre Hal, Vanderbilt
- S -- Craig Loston, LSU
- QB -- AJ McCarron, Alabama
- DT -- Dominique Easley, Florida
- LB -- A.J. Johnson, Tennessee
- CB -- Loucheiz Purifoy, Florida
Who are the best players from the SEC not making any of the four teams?
At the top of my list would be Ole Miss receiver Donte Moncrief. I'd also throw in Alabama outside linebacker Adrian Hubbard, Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray, Florida cornerback Marcus Roberson, Vanderbilt offensive tackle Wesley Johnson, Missouri cornerback E.J. Gaines and Mississippi State running back LaDarius Perkins.
Today's Take Two topic: If you could pick an offense in 2013, which one would you take -- Alabama's or Georgia's?
Take 1: Chris Low
To me, the three best offenses in the SEC next year should belong to, in alphabetical order, Alabama, Georgia and Texas A&M. You couldn’t go wrong with any of the three. If I were picking one, though, I’d take the Crimson Tide. It starts with senior quarterback AJ McCarron, who knows that offense inside and out, also knows the league, and doesn’t make mistakes. In the past two seasons, he has thrown 46 touchdown passes and only eight interceptions. He also has been at his best in each of the past two BCS National Championships. There’s no substitute for having a veteran quarterback who delivers in the big games.
There’s no question that if the Bulldogs return to the SEC championship game for a third consecutive year, those defensive players will have made enormous strides to get them there. They return every key offensive player except receivers Tavarres King and Marlon Brown, but lose 12 important defenders.
So let’s take a quick look at five key players who will lead the rebuilding effort for Georgia’s defense this fall -- and then three more to watch for good measure.
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Well, Nick Saban and his gang of future NFL ballers proved to us once again that it is indeed Alabama's world, after claiming their second consecutive national title and third in four years Monday night. That ringing in your ears is just the sound of "Roll Tide" being repeated over and over in your head. I've learned there's nothing we can do about it.
But will 2013 bring college football a team that can really stop the Tide? I mean, REALLY stop Alabama from winning a third straight national championship? Well, ESPN's Mark Schlabach seems to believe that the road to Pasadena is paved in crimson and white, as he has Alabama No. 1 in his Way-Too-Early-Top 25 for 2013.
It's hard to blame him at this point. Sure, Alabama's offensive line won't be nearly as good with Barrett Jones and Chance Warmack leaving. And it will take even more of a hit if/when D.J. Fluker decides to turn pro. But with quarterback AJ McCarron, running back T.J. Yeldon (we're assuming Eddie Lacy and his sweet spin move are headed to the NFL), wide receiver Amari Cooper and a host of studs on the defense returning, Alabama will again be the team to beat.
But there are some quality teams in the SEC that will fight to dethrone Alabama, and Schlabach has four in his top 10. Texas A&M, which returns the Heisman-winning Johnny Football, ranks fifth, Georgia is sixth, South Carolina is seventh and Florida is 10th. The thing about all those teams is that they all return their starting quarterbacks, with Georgia's Aaron Murray being one of the best in the country alongside Johnny Manziel.
South Carolina will be one of the more balanced teams in the SEC next fall, and if Florida can actually find a passing game in 2013, watch out because that defense will still be fierce, even with a few junior defections.
LSU, checking in at No. 13, is the only other SEC team in Schlabach's top 25. The Tigers are expected to have a better offense, especially with Zach Mettenberger finally finding his comfort zone under center, but a poor offensive showing in the Chick-fil-A Bowl defeat to Clemson and the loss of junior running backs Michael Ford and Spencer Ware create an uneasy feeling around the offense. Plus, the defense just took a beating as a result of juniors departing for the NFL, especially up front. All-American punter Brad Wing also left.
The good news for LSU is that running back Jeremy Hill is returning, and he'll only be a sophomore.
It's a good list to start off with, but where in the world is Vanderbilt? The Commodores are coming off of a historic season in Nashville. There were nine wins that included a bowl victory, five conference wins and a seven-game winning streak. The quarterback and running back spots might be up for grabs, but Jordan Matthews is coming back, along with fellow receiver Chris Boyd. And most of the rest of the offense remains intact.
There was room for Vandy in there somewhere ...
No. 18 Bacarri Rambo
67 tackles, 3 INTs, 3 FF
Role in 2012: The 2011 first-team All-American returned to his playmaking ways in the secondary following a four-game suspension to open his senior season.
The good: Aside from Jarvis Jones, Rambo is the best turnover generator on the team, and that skill was in full effect during the Bulldogs’ second-half surge toward another SEC East title. He made huge takeaways in wins against Florida (an interception in the end zone) and Georgia Tech (a strip/fumble recovery at the Georgia 1 that he returned 49 yards to midfield). He finished fourth on the team in tackles, tied for first in interceptions and trailed only Jones with three forced fumbles.
The bad: Perhaps two of the Bulldogs’ most memorable defensive miscues -- a jump ball for a 42-yard completion to Damiere Byrd on South Carolina’s opening drive and a similar jump ball that Alabama’s Amari Cooper caught for a 44-yard gain -- were plays where the ball slid through Rambo’s fingertips. Plus he missed four games this season and one in 2011 while serving suspensions. Rambo is one of the most effective defensive playmakers of the Mark Richt era, but he’s also had his share of costly off-the-field issues.
Crystal ball: With one game left in his college career, Rambo is tied with Jake Scott for Georgia’s career interception record (16). If nothing else, he has shown a nose for finding the football while it’s in the air -- and that should help him land somewhere in the NFL. ESPN Scouts Inc. rates Rambo as a top-100 draft prospect and the No. 8 player at his position. Last week, however, ESPN’s Mel Kiper rated Rambo as the No. 2 senior safety prospect and said an NFL team will draft him “knowing he can start right away.”
No. 5 Damian Swann
47 tackles, 2 INTs, 3.5 TFLs
Role in 2012: Swann stepped into a starting role as a sophomore and immediately became one of the Bulldogs’ top playmakers in the secondary.
The good: Not only did he have a solid season as a cover corner, Swann also contributed in other ways. His sack and forced fumble early in the Florida game set up Georgia’s first touchdown. And he made two fumble recoveries against Ole Miss that helped the Bulldogs take control in that win. Overall he had an outstanding first season as a starter.
The bad: Unfortunately for Swann, the enduring image from his 2012 season will probably be Alabama’s Amari Cooper streaking behind him for the game-winning, 45-yard touchdown catch in the SEC championship game. It was one of the few times that an opponent got behind him and made a big play, but the stakes in that moment could not have been greater.
Crystal ball: Swann will be the only returning starter in Georgia’s secondary next season, so he will play a crucial leadership role as a junior. He started every game this season and played a key role in coverage and in blitzing and could help generate turnovers (as evidenced by his two sacks, two interceptions, two forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries). The Bulldogs have numerous holes to fill on defense next season, but Swann will be a stabilizing force.
The sixth-ranked Bulldogs (11-2) will instead play No. 16 Nebraska (10-3) in the Capital One Bowl with far less at stake, although they can still become just the third Georgia team ever to win 12 games in a season -- a win that could send off a valuable senior class in the right way after they helped re-establish Georgia as one of the SEC’s top programs.
Let’s review our Georgia Power Rankings entering bowl season (last week’s rank in parentheses):
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Dogs pull off fake puntThe score: 0-0
The situation: Georgia faced fourth-and-10 from the Alabama 36 on the first play of the second quarter.
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Recruit Comparison: Murray to Allen
Final Washington State 45 Colorado State 48 Final 20 Fresno State 20 25 USC 45 Final Buffalo 24 San Diego State 49 Final Tulane 21 Louisiana-Lafayette 24
Final Pittsburgh 30 Bowling Green 27 Final Utah State 21 23 Northern Illinois 14
Final Marshall 31 Maryland 20 Final Syracuse 21 Minnesota 17 Final Brigham Young 16 Washington 31
Final Rutgers 16 Notre Dame 29 Final Cincinnati 17 North Carolina 39 Final Miami (FL) 9 18 Louisville 36 Final Michigan 14 Kansas State 31
Final Middle Tennessee 6 Navy 24 Final Ole Miss 25 Georgia Tech 17 Final 10 Oregon 30 Texas 7 Final 14 Arizona State 23 Texas Tech 37
Final Arizona 42 Boston College 19 Final Virginia Tech 12 17 UCLA 42 Final Rice 7 Mississippi State 44 Final 24 Duke 48 21 Texas A&M 52
Final Nebraska 24 22 Georgia 19 Final UNLV 14 North Texas 36 Final Iowa 14 16 LSU 21 Final 19 Wisconsin 24 9 South Carolina 34 Final 5 Stanford 20 4 Michigan State 24 Final 15 UCF 52 6 Baylor 42
Final 13 Oklahoma State 31 8 Missouri 41 Final 12 Clemson 40 7 Ohio State 35