Georgia Bulldogs: Denzel Nkemdiche

SEC's lunch links

March, 19, 2014
Mar 19
12:00
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Is basketball taking over the SEC? Auburn hired Bruce Pearl. Tennessee is about to open NCAA tournament play. Not so fast. The majority of the conference is still being consumed by spring football, and for further evidence of that, check out today’s lunch links.

SEC's lunch links

March, 18, 2014
Mar 18
12:15
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Three SEC teams begin spring practice on Tuesday, and there's a host of news and nuggets, including a bit of the off-the-field variety, in today's lunch links:

SEC's lunch links

March, 11, 2014
Mar 11
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Half of the SEC teams have started officially-sanctioned football-related activities with Missouri and Vanderbilt opening spring practice on Tuesday. There's a lot going on.

SEC's lunch links

March, 5, 2014
Mar 5
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The "10-second rule" has been the hot topic in college football this offseason, and the debate raged on Tuesday with Nick Saban speaking out on the issue. As we all await Thursday’s vote, see what else is going on in the SEC with today’s lunch links.

SEC lunchtime links

February, 19, 2014
Feb 19
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Let's take a quick spin through the headlines from across the SEC:

SEC's lunch links

February, 18, 2014
Feb 18
12:00
PM ET
Here's a quick look at what is happening around the SEC:

" Alabama said Monday after running back Dee Hart's arrest on drug possession charges that he has not been a part of the program since the bowl game.

" Ole Miss suspended linebackers Denzel Nkemdiche and Serderius Bryant following their weekend arrests in Oxford.

" Several SEC players made NFL.com analyst Nolan Nawrocki's list of the most controversial players in the draft, including Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel, who Nawrocki said “carries a sense of entitlement and prima-donna arrogance.”

" Athlon Sports lists the top-10 SEC linebackers of the BCS era.

" Did Georgia recruit too well at running back when it signed Sony Michel and Nick Chubb this year? Highly sought-after 2015 prospect Taj Griffin discusses that and other subjects with the Atlanta Journal Constitution's Michael Carvell.

" USC has removed a signing-day video where an off-camera voice can be heard describing a Tennessee signee as “soft and terrible.”

" Mercedes-Benz won't allow a Birmingham-area car dealership to carry Nick Saban's name, but the Alabama coach is aligned with a proposed dealership that is caught up in litigation ahead of its opening.

" Baton Rouge police arrested three suspects in connection with a weekend home invasion at former LSU athletic director Skip Bertman's residence.

" The Columbia Daily Tribune's David Morrison takes a look at the Tigers' running back depth chart entering spring practice.

" South Carolina's Bruce Ellington followed his mother's advice and opted to enter the NFL draft early.

What to watch in the SEC: Week 2

September, 5, 2013
9/05/13
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The second week of the college football season is upon us.

Some exceeded expectations in Week 1, others fell short. In the SEC, a few coaches made debuts at new programs, a few key players suffered injuries that will affect their teams and there is buzz, both good and bad, surrounding some of the league’s most visible stars.

Here are 10 things to keep an eye on in the SEC in Week 2:

[+] EnlargeClowney
Gerry Melendez/Getty ImagesAfter his lackluster showing in the season opener, all eyes will be on Jadeveon Clowney when South Carolina faces Georgia.
1. What will Clowney do? South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney has endured much criticism after a pedestrian performance in the Gamecocks' season-opening win against North Carolina. After a three-tackle, no-sack performance, some observers questioned Clowney's conditioning and South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier said Clowney was definitely affected by the heat. This week, the No. 6 Gamecocks meet No. 11 Georgia and you can bet people will watch Clowney even more closely as the stakes are raised as each team opens SEC play.

2. What's next for Manziel? Johnny Manziel's return to the field for Texas A&M yielded terrific on-field results (6-of-8 passing, 94 yards, three touchdown passes) as well as a firestorm of media criticism as a result of an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty he committed and a few celebrations. Whether he likes it or not, all eyes are on him and as Aggies coach Kevin Sumlin said, "people want to make a story out of anything that happens on this team right now." Will there be more non-football conversation circulating Manziel after the Aggies play Sam Houston State on Saturday?

3. Jones returns for UF: Sophomore running back Matt Jones returns to the Florida lineup this weekend as the Gators travel to Miami. The 6-foot-2, 226-pound Jones missed three weeks of practice while recovering from a viral infection and offensive coordinator Brent Pease said Jones will see plenty of touches in his return, perhaps as many as 25 carries.

4. Familiar foe for Malzahn: Auburn and new coach Gus Malzahn are hosting a team that he's quite familiar with -- Arkansas State. Malzahn spent last year as the Red Wolves' head coach, leading them to a 9-3 record and a conference championship before departing for Auburn prior to the GoDaddy.com Bowl. Arkansas State's new coach is former Texas offensive coordinator Bryan Harsin, who led the Red Wolves to a 62-11 win over Arkansas-Pine Bluff in his debut. Meanwhile, Malzahn's new team escaped with a 31-24 win over Washington State behind new starting quarterback Nick Marshall.

5. Prescott likely to start for Mississippi State: Starting quarterback Tyler Russell sustained a concussion in the Bulldogs' loss Saturday to Oklahoma State and is doubtful to play this weekend against Alcorn State. That means coach Dan Mullen will likely turn to backup Dak Prescott, a 6-2, 230-pound sophomore, to fill in. The dual-threat quarterback brings an ability to run the football to the Bulldogs' offense, recording 131 yards on 32 carries in spot duty last season. Mullen said he's confident in Prescott.

6. Adjustments to be made for Georgia: A season-opening 38-35 loss to talented ACC foe Clemson yielded an injured receiver (Malcolm Mitchell is out for the season after an ACL injury suffered while celebrating a Todd Gurley touchdown) and displayed a struggling offensive line. Quarterback Aaron Murray rarely had time to throw against Clemson and the Bulldogs are facing a talented South Carolina defensive front. But the Clemson loss can be easily forgotten if the Bulldogs open SEC play with a win over a top-10 team and fellow SEC East squad.

7. Can Stoops and Kentucky bounce back? There was a lot of buzz surrounding the debut of new Kentucky head coach Mark Stoops but it was killed by a season-opening loss to Western Kentucky. The Wildcats host Miami (Ohio) and are double-digit favorites. It's imperative to erase the taste of last week's loss with a win this week for UK.

8. Intriguing matchup in Knoxville: Tennessee cruised to a win over FCS foe Austin Peay in the opening week but now get a little bit of a tougher test in Bobby Petrino's Western Kentucky squad, which is fresh off its upset of Kentucky. The Volunteers are favored and rightfully so, and they're a higher caliber opponent than Kentucky. It would be a tough task for the Hilltoppers to pull off in Neyland Stadium, but it's worth at least keeping an eye on as Petrino tries to start 2-0 against SEC foes while Tennessee's Butch Jones looks to keep positive momentum going.

9. Ole Miss looking for others to emerge: The Rebels lost guard Aaron Morris to a season-ending knee injury and linebacker Denzel Nkemdiche for 4-6 weeks because of a meniscus tear. Though they have an FCS foe in Southeast Missouri State, the Rebels will need others to step up in their absences.

10. Mettenberger looking to build on Week 1: In his first game under new offensive coordinator Cam Cameron, LSU quarterback Zach Mettenberger did enough to guide the Tigers to a 37-27 win over TCU. This week against UAB, he told reporters he has to be a little more accurate than his 16-for-32 showing, which was otherwise solid, yielding 251 yards and a touchdown pass.

Ranking the SEC linebackers

July, 9, 2013
7/09/13
4:00
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Now that you've seen where all the SEC linebacker units rank, let's check to see who the top 10 linebackers entering the 2013 season are.

This had to be one of the toughest lists to come up with, but here goes nothing:

[+] EnlargeC.J. Mosley
Ronald Martinez/Getty ImagesDespite splitting reps, linebacker C.J. Mosley still managed to top Alabama in tackles last season.
1. C.J. Mosley, Sr., Alabama: Last year, he was considered one of the best linebackers in the country and might have been a first-round draft pick in this year's NFL draft if he had opted to leave school early. The Butkus Award finalist had to share time last year, but still led the Crimson Tide with 107 tackles and was second with four sacks. He should be even better with more time on the field this fall.

2. Jordan Jenkins, So., Georgia: Even though he was a backup last year, Jenkins was second on the team with five sacks and 23 quarterback hurries. Now he's taking over Jarvis Jones' position and has all the skill to be an elite pass-rusher in this league. He learned from one of the best in Jones, but might be even better suited for the position than his predecessor, which has to scare opposing offenses.

3. A.J. Johnson, Jr., Tennessee: Johnson was one of the hardest working linebackers in the league last year, leading the SEC with 138 total tackles. Sixty-three of those tackles were solo stops. The change to the traditional 4-3 scheme should help him, but Johnson also looked to become even more focused this spring. Johnson's next step is becoming a real field leader for this team.

4. Adrian Hubbard, Jr., Alabama: Nick Saban wants his front seven to get to the quarterback more, and Hubbard is expected to be even better at that this fall. He led the Tide with seven sacks last year and 11 tackles for loss. Hubbard and his coaches want more. Hubbard has great speed off the edge and can make plays all over the field. A big year could push himself into position to be a top draft prospect at his position.

5. Lamin Barrow, Sr., LSU: Kevin Minter might have been the star of LSU's defense last year, but Barrow was extremely productive with his 104 tackles, including 52 solo stops. He also had 7.5 tackles for loss, broke up five passes and recovered two fumbles. Barrow is the quarterback of LSU's defense and shouldn't have any problem dealing with more responsibility now that Minter is gone.

6. Antonio Morrison, So., Florida: Morrison served as a backup for the Gators last year, but started three games and registered 34 tackles and a sack. The coaches are expecting even more from the rangy and hard-hitting stud, as he moves to middle linebacker. He'll now be relied upon to be the quarterback and captain of this defense, meaning he still has a lot of growing to do, which showed after his offseason arrest.

7. Benardrick McKinney, So., Mississippi State: Quietly, McKinney had a very impressive year with the Bulldogs last year. He was eighth in the SEC with 102 tackles. He also registered 45 solo tackles and had 10 or more tackles in four games last year. He's the anchor of Mississippi State's linebacking corps and should catch the attention of a lot more people this fall.

8. Denzel Nkemdiche, So., Ole Miss: He was one of the biggest surprises around last year and earned second-team All-SEC honors after leading Ole Miss in tackles (82), tackles for loss (13) and forced fumbles (four). He also tied for the team lead in interceptions (three). Nkemdiche isn't the biggest player, but he can play all the linebacker positions and has the athleticism and speed to cover a ton of ground on the defensive side of the ball.

9. Ronald Powell, Jr., Florida: He missed all of last season after suffering two ACL injuries, but the word out of Gainesville is that he'll be fully ready to go when fall starts. His dedication to rehab and his humbled approach have his coaches and teammates excited about his 2013 season. He was playing his best ball before he was hurt last spring and if that Powell shows up this fall, he should be one of the top pass-rushers in the SEC.

10. Kwon Alexander, So., LSU: A broken ankle cut Alexander's freshman year short, but the coaches are very, very excited about his potential. He doesn't have a lot of stats to live off of, but he might be the most physically gifted linebacker in LSU's stable. He covers a lot of ground and should be a big-time playmaker for the Tigers.
In order to make a stand in the SEC, you have to have a strong front seven. It starts with a stout defensive line, but don't forget about those cats behind that front line.

Linebackers need love, too:

1. Alabama: For starters, "Linebacker U" will enter the 2013 season with three linebackers -- C.J. Mosley, Adrian Hubbard and Trey DePriest -- who started 10 or more games last season. Then there's Xzavier Dickson, who started seven games at the rush-end "Jack" position. All four played in every game last year, making play after play. Mosley was considered one of the nation's best linebackers and could have opted for the NFL early. He'll get even more time with Nico Johnson gone. Hubbard is the team's top pass-rusher, DePriest has transformed into a top linebacker prospect in next year's NFL draft and Dickson is versatile enough to play linebacker and on the line. There is also a ton of young talent to watch, starting with sophomore Denzel Devall, who could really break out.

[+] EnlargeLamin Barrow
Stacy Revere/Getty ImagesLamin Barrow should replace some of the production the Tigers lost when Kevin Minter moved on to the NFL.
2. LSU: Kevin Minter might be gone, but the Tigers still have some quality players roaming around the position. Lamin Barrow will anchor the group and is coming off a season in which he registered 104 tackles, including 52 solo stops. He's getting a ton of NFL love and will get help from very talented sophomore Kwon Alexander, who only played seven games, but would have seen plenty more action if hadn't suffered a broken ankle midseason. Alexander could be primed for a huge season and might be the team's best linebacker. Senior Tahj Jones only played in one game last year because of academic issues, but he'll have every chance to start outside. Sophomores Deion Jones, Lamar Louis and Ronnie Feist all saw good time last year and will be in the rotation along with incoming freshman Kendell Beckwith, who could immediately push for a starting spot.

3. Ole Miss: The Rebels work in that 4-2-5 defense, but have a lot of talent at linebacker, starting with big-hitting senior captain Mike Marry, who has 22 career starts and finished last season with 78 tackles with 10.5 for loss. The pleasant surprise from this group last year was Denzel Nkemdiche, who was a second-team All-SEC member as a freshman after leading Ole Miss in tackles (82), tackles for loss (13) and forced fumbles (four). The thing that makes Nkemdiche so valuable is that he knows all of the linebacker positions and covers a ton of ground with his speed. Long-time Rebel D.T. Shackelford is back after two knee surgeries, but had a very good spring and should provide quality depth and excellent leadership. Then you have talented reserve Serderius Bryant, who could start at a lot of schools. Don't forget about the hybrid "Husky" position that will feature top recruit Antonio Conner.

4. Tennessee: The Vols bring back the league's top tackler in A.J. Johnson and excellent pass-rusher Curt Maggitt, who had his 2012 season shortened because of injury. He should be back to full health this fall, but could move to defensive end. Johnson has a chance to play his way into the first round of next year's NFL draft. Senior Dontavis Sapp doesn't have a ton of experience, but was a star this spring and has the ability to play any of the linebacker spots. Four senior backups return and have combined to play in nearly 140 games. The only problem is that they've also combined for just one start. Senior Brent Brewer also moved from safety to linebacker to give the Vols a lot of speed on the outside.

5. Florida: The Gators lost two valuable players in Jon Bostic and Jelani Jenkins, but they still have a ton of young talent to work with, starting with Antonio Morrison. He ran into legal trouble this summer, but he has a chance to be an All-SEC player after moving from outside to middle linebacker. Dante Fowler Jr. and Ronald Powell will rotate at the hybrid defensive end/linebacker "Buck" position, but Powell could see more time at strongside linebacker. If he's healthy after his two ACL injuries, he could be an elite pass-rusher. Hard-hitting and dependable Michael Taylor left spring as the starting weakside linebacker, while freshman Daniel McMillian had an outstanding spring at the Will position. Fellow freshman Alex Anzalone was a top recruit in the 2013 class and should vie for plenty of time, while vets Darrin Kitchens and Neiron Ball will push for starting spots.

6. Vanderbilt: This was supposed to be a concern for the Commodores last year, but it ended up being a strength. Do-everything leader Chase Garnham is back, along with his 43 solo tackles, seven sacks and 12.5 tackles for loss. He's the heart of the defense. Hybrid linebacker/safety (Star) Karl Butler returns and should continue to put a lot of heat on opposing backfields. He registered 11.5 tackles for loss last season. Sophomore Darreon Herring has to replace the very reliable Archibald Barnes, but saw plenty of time last year as the Commodores' top reserve at linebacker. Sophomores Larry Franklin and Jake Sealand provide good depth after seeing significant time last year.

[+] EnlargeBenardrick McKinney
AP Photo/Don Juan MooreBenardrick McKinney was named to the Freshman All-SEC Team following last season.
7. Mississippi State: Starters Benardrick McKinney (102 tackles) and Deontae Skinner (62 tackles) return, giving Mississippi State a very sound foundation to work with. McKinney was quietly one of the league's top linebackers last year and could be even better this fall. Veteran Ferlando Bohanna, who has tremendous speed, will provide good depth, and the staff is excited about the versatility junior Matt Wells has. Losing Chris Hughes this summer hurts, but the Bulldogs will be able to cover a lot of ground with this group of rangy, athletic linebackers.

8. Georgia: Like every defensive position, the Bulldogs lost a lot at linebacker, but there is some promising young talent that should get better as the season goes on. Everything revolves around sophomore Jordan Jenkins, who could end up being an elite pass-rusher after learning under Jarvis Jones last season. Jenkins was second on the team in sacks last season with five and should be even more disruptive in Jones' old spot. Junior Amarlo Herrera started nine games and will be the captain of the unit inside. Junior Ramik Wilson had a very good spring and has found his spot inside, while sophomore Josh Harvey-Clemons will play some linebacker when he isn't at safety and has a chance to be a star. Sophomore James DeLoach also had a very good spring outside. Freshmen Reggie Carter and Ryne Rankin will also have ample opportunities for good playing time this fall.

9. Kentucky: Having Alvin "Bud" Dupree moving to defensive end hurts, but the Wildcats still have two solid options returning in Avery Williamson and youngster Khalid Henderson, who has playmaker written all over him. Williamson enters his senior season with 194 career tackles. Finding someone to take the other linebacker spot is the goal of fall camp. Miles Simpson started 11 games and had 70 tackles last year, but has to be more consistent. Junior Kory Brown and sophomore Josh Forrest will compete for that spot too and might be more athletic, but they lack experience. Malcolm McDuffen still hasn't reached his potential and Demarius Rancifer has decided to transfer.

10. Texas A&M: The Aggies lost starters Jonathan Stewart and Sean Porter and are now surrounded by youth. Veteran Steven Jenkins is back, but he missed spring practice due to offseason shoulder surgery. He had time to work with junior college transfer Tommy Sanders, which will help a lot this fall, as he vies for a starting spot outside. The Aggies will have to rely on youngsters at linebacker, but junior Donnie Baggs looks like he'll start at middle linebacker. But after that it's all about newcomers, including new linebackers coach Mark Hagen. Freshmen Reggie Chevis and Brett Wade both went through spring practice, which helps, but expect growing pains from this unit.

11. Missouri: The Tigers are fortunate to have senior Andrew Wilson and his 23 career starts back, but there isn't a lot of experience beyond that. Wilson has also led the Tigers in tackles in back-to-back seasons (79 last year). Donovan Bonner, a senior, and Kentrell Brothers showed flashes this spring, but both have to be more consistent. The same goes for Darvin Ruise, who entered the spring as a starter and played primarily on special teams last year. Keep an eye on freshman Michael Scherer, who has the talent to be a stud. There is athleticism here, but tackling was a major issue with this unit last year.

12. Arkansas: The Razorbacks return veterans A.J. Turner and Otha Peters, but the best overall player at this position might be junior college transfer Martrell Spaight. That could be both good and bad, but the fact of the matter is that Turner and Peters have to improve and get over their injuries from the spring if they want starting jobs this fall. Senior Jarrett Lake had a good spring and could be the leader here. Freshman Brooks Ellis could make an immediate impact too. Experience is a bigger issue than talent with this unit. Also, the staff could spend the preseason moving everyone around.

13. Auburn: This unit really struggled last year with getting lined up right and making tackles. There should be improvement with Ellis Johnson taking over the defense, but players need to get better. Star hybrid Justin Garrett had a great spring and could be primed for a breakout year. He can play in the box and cover, so he'll really help this unit. The good news is that Johnson needs just two linebackers for his 4-2-5 scheme. But those players have to perform. Sophomore Kris Frost made strides this spring and Jake Holland is experienced, while Cassanova McKinzy and JaViere Mitchell should vie for the other linebacker spot.

14. South Carolina: The Gamecocks lost their entire two-deep at linebacker and had to move tight end Kelvin Rainey to linebacker to help with depth. There are a lot of bodies, but the experience is really lacking. Sophomore Kaiwan Lewis made strides this spring at middle linebacker, while junior Sharrod Golightly left spring with the edge at the hybrid Spur position. Freshmen T.J. Holloman and Jordan Diggs will compete for time this spring, but, again, they have no experience. Sophomore Cedrick Cooper missed spring while recovering from knee surgery, but should start at weakside linebacker.

The SEC's top impact newcomers

November, 28, 2012
11/28/12
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Predicting in the preseason which newcomers are going to have the biggest impact is always a crapshoot.

Case in point: How many of you out there had Johnny Manziel on your Heisman Trophy lists back in August?

We didn’t even include him among the five choices in a SportsNation poll, which asked you to pick the SEC Newcomer of the Year. The winner, by the way, was Missouri freshman receiver Dorial Green-Beckham.

It’s a little easier now that the regular season is behind us, so we’ve ranked the top 10 newcomers in the SEC this season. True freshmen, redshirt freshmen and any transfers playing their first season in the SEC were eligible.

Here goes:

1. Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M: An easy call for the top spot. Manziel, a redshirt freshman, is the front-runner to win the Heisman Trophy. He’s accounted for 43 touchdowns and broke Cam Newton’s SEC record for total offense in a season with 4,600 yards. “Johnny Football” carved apart SEC defenses this season, and that’s not supposed to happen.

[+] EnlargeTodd Gurley
Daniel Shirey/US PresswireFreshman Todd Gurley led all running backs in the SEC with 1,138 yards.
2. Todd Gurley, RB, Georgia: One half of Georgia’s famed “Gurshall” duo, Gurley showcased the kind of size, speed and power rarely seen from a true freshman in this league. He’s rushed for 1,138 yards to lead all SEC running backs and has scored 15 touchdowns, which includes a 100-yard kickoff return. He’s averaging 6.5 yards per carry.

3. Cordarrelle Patterson, WR/KR, Tennessee: Transferring in from junior college, Patterson is still raw and not the most polished route runner, but he emerged as one of the most electrifying players in the SEC. He leads the league in all-purpose yardage (154.8 yards per game) and scored touchdowns four different ways -- rushing, receiving, kickoff return and punt return.

4. T.J. Yeldon, RB, Alabama: One of those guys who can do a little bit of everything, Yeldon has 847 rushing yards and has scored 11 touchdowns. He’s already surpassed the freshman rushing totals of both Mark Ingram and Trent Richardson and still has two games to play.

5. Mike Evans, WR, Texas A&M: While most eyes have been on Manziel in Aggieland, Evans has also had a monster freshman season. The 6-foot-5, 218-pound redshirt freshman is fourth in the SEC with 75 catches and one of four players in the league to surpass 1,000 receiving yards (1,022).

6. Denzel Nkemdiche, LB, Ole Miss: The older Nkemdiche can play a little football, too. His younger brother, Robert Nkemdiche, is the No. 1 high school prospect in the country. But all Denzel Nkemdiche did this season was lead all SEC freshmen with 78 total tackles, including 12 tackles for loss. A redshirt freshman, Nkemdiche also has four forced fumbles and three interceptions.

7. Evan Boehm, OG, Missouri: He came to Missouri as one of the most coveted guard prospects in the country and didn’t disappoint. Boehm became the first-ever true freshman to start under Gary Pinkel on the offensive line and was the only player on the Tigers’ injury-ravaged line to start every game at the same position this season, left guard.

8. Keith Marshall, RB, Georgia: The other half of “Gurshall” was plenty explosive in his own right. Marshall, also a true freshman, has 720 rushing yards and eight touchdowns and is averaging 6.7 yards per carry. He has four touchdown runs of 52 yards or longer.

9. Jeremy Hill, RB, LSU: The Tigers waited until later in the season to unleash the powerful true freshman, and he enters the bowl game with a team-leading 631 yards and 10 touchdowns. He’s only started in four games, but had a pair of long touchdown runs in the fourth quarter to help salt away wins over South Carolina and Texas A&M.

10. Bo Wallace, QB, Ole Miss: Even though he turned the ball over too much in his first season after transferring in from junior college, Wallace made a ton of plays to help steer the Rebels to a bowl game. He’s fourth in the SEC in total offense with 3,206 yards and has accounted for 28 touchdowns.

A few newcomers that just missed the cut were Florida defensive end Dante Fowler (true freshman), Alabama receiver Amari Cooper (true freshman), Tennessee noseguard Daniel McCullers (junior college transfer), Mississippi State middle linebacker Benardrick McKinney (redshirt freshman), Mississippi State defensive end Denico Autry (junior college transfer) and LSU cornerback Jalen Mills (true freshman).

Game breakdown: Georgia vs. Ole Miss 

November, 2, 2012
11/02/12
7:00
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NO. 6 GEORGIA VS. OLE MISS
Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET
Sanford Stadium, Athens, Ga.
CBS

Scouting report: Ole Miss 

October, 30, 2012
10/30/12
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ATHENS, Ga. -- Georgia needs wins in its last two games in order to defend its SEC East championship. First up on the list is Ole Miss, which visits Athens on Saturday.

Record: 5-3 (2-2 SEC)

Coach: Hugh Freeze, first season (5-3)

Series record: Georgia leads 31-12-1

Top players: QB Bo Wallace (136-205, 1,649 yards, 10 TDs, 9 INTs), TB Jeff Scott (113-612, 5.4 YPC, 6 TDs, WR Donte Moncrief (39-540, 13.8 YPC, 5 TDs), LB Denzel Nkemdiche (52 tackles, 9 TFL, 2 INTs) Scouting the offense: Although Ole Miss’ roster numbers keep them from playing at the high tempo Freeze would like, they have picked up his fast-paced offense well enough to become a dangerously balanced offense. With dual-threat quarterback Wallace at the controls, the Rebels average 235.6 yards per game passing and 194.4 rushing. The Rebels had major problems at quarterback last season, but Wallace’s emergence -- he was 29-for-37 for 278 yards, one touchdown and one interception in last Saturday’s 30-27 win at Arkansas -- has paid big dividends for Ole Miss.

Scouting the defense: The Rebels have surrendered at least 20 points in every SEC game and gave up 66 to Texas in a mid-September loss. They have also been an opportunistic bunch, using a couple of Auburn turnovers to score key touchdowns that helped them break a 16-game SEC losing streak. However, they have not been particularly effective at defending the run (they rank ninth in the SEC, allowing 148 yards per game) or the pass (ninth, 221.5).

Three keys to victory

  • Continue high-energy play from Florida game: There aren’t many teams in the country that can hang with Georgia if it plays with the intensity that it carried into last weekend’s 17-9 upset of then-No. 2 Florida. But maintaining that edge on a week-to-week basis will be difficult. Georgia doesn’t have to duplicate that effort, but a comparable level of aggression against Ole Miss would probably be enough to win.
  • Get in Wallace’s face: Wallace is fifth in the SEC in total offense at 239 yards per game, but he has also made his share of mistakes in his first season as the Rebels’ starting quarterback -- as evidenced by his 10-9 touchdown-interception ratio. The Bulldogs need to rein him in as a runner like they did against Florida’s Jeff Driskel and pressure him into errors that will make a victory easier to achieve.
  • Start fast: Ole Miss is a program that is only learning how to win under a new coaching staff. The Bulldogs need to break their will early in this game. Alabama jumped out to a 27-6 halftime lead and was able to cruise to a win, but Texas A&M fell behind in Oxford and had to battle back in the fourth quarter to win. The Rebels are capable of winning this game if Georgia doesn’t come to play.

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Robert Nkemdiche torn between families 

October, 10, 2012
10/10/12
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No. 1 prospect Robert Nkemdiche surprised many by making his commitment to Clemson in June. On Wednesday, Nkemdiche acknowledged the family is split over his nonbinding verbal commitment and admitted it has not made his decision any easier.

“My recruitment is crazy still, and Ole Miss is making a push for me,” Nkemdiche said. “It does not matter to my dad, but my mom wants me to go to Ole Miss and we are still talking about it, so we have not come to an agreement on it yet. It is tugging my heart in two different directions.”

When Nkemdiche committed to the Tigers, he mentioned it being like a family at Clemson. He has former teammates at Clemson and current teammates committed there, but it appears that connection will now be tested by his own family ties. Last month, Robert’s father said he was indifferent to where his son signs. But his mother, Beverly, told ESPN the Magazine’s Zach Schonbrun that she was not happy to learn of her son’s commitment while returning to Georgia over the summer from Nigeria, where she is a state legislator.

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