LSU Tigers: Western Kentucky Hilltoppers

What to watch in the SEC: Week 2

September, 5, 2013

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 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.

Juco Spotlight: Northeast Miss. 

October, 25, 2012
Good friend or not. Fellow Louisiana native or not. Ed Orgeron had to go.

That's just how Ricky Smither operates. The head football coach at Boonesville (Miss.) Northeast still smiles when he remembers when the Southern California coach stopped by to recruit a prospect who was already committed to Alabama.

[+] EnlargeNick Thomason, Logan Stokes, Lavon Hooks
Dave Hooker/ left) Nick Thomason, Logan Stokes and Lavon Hooks of Northeast Mississippi.
It was nothing personal. Just business for Smither. Committed players stay committed. Placed players stick with the school they originally signed with. It's practically code in Mississippi when it comes to junior colleges. So, Orgeron was asked as politely as possible to leave.

"I had to," said Smither with a smile in his south Louisiana draw. "He said, 'Coach, you know I'm going to see him. You know me.' I said, 'Ed, if you go to that dorm, I'm going to have you escorted off. We don't do that. We don't work like that.' "

Orgeron decided to avoid being removed and the prospect ended up where he was originally committed. Now, Smither, who is from Thibodeaux, La., has taken the same approach with tight end Logan Stokes, who committed to LSU this summer. Afterwards, Alabama came calling. That didn't get too far. Smither shut down the Crimson Tide like no team has been able to do this season.

Stokes won't be the last prospect Smither will have to defend. The next will likely be Lavon Hooks, a former basketball player who has turned into a standout interior defensive lineman.

"We moved him inside and, man, he has just been blowing it up," Smither said. "He's playing tackle and nose guard for us. Very, very athletic kid."

Smither said every school in the SEC besides Alabama and LSU has inquired about Hooks, but most of his double-digit offers have come from smaller schools. That's likely to change when a bigger school realizes it needs immediate help on the defensive line.

Defensive tackle tends to be where junior college players can provide some of the biggest, quickest impacts at four-year schools. Ole Miss, Mississippi State, Kentucky and Tennessee have shown the most recent interest in Hooks.

Northeast's next big-man on campus will likely be Anthony Kibler. Well, in fact, he already is. The 6-foot-6, 350-pound offensive lineman should be eligible in 2014 after off-field issues led to his dismissal from South Florida. If Kibler can prove such discretions are behind him and he can drop some weight, Smither said he'll likely be a top junior college prospect as well.

"He's had some issues," Smither said. "A lot of people are just waiting to see how he responds. He's an NFL guy."

Smither should know. He coached NFL standout receiver Julio Jones in high school and has been around plenty of big-time college and professional-level prospects. Here are his thoughts on two more prospects at Northeastern who have received college interest:

  • Jonathan Harrison -- Smither seems completely shocked when asked why Harrison doesn't have more college interest. "He's a 6-5 kid that's killing it.. I think he's averaging about 46 (yards per punt)," Smither said. Harrison said he believes more four-year schools are using walk-ons to handle kicking. Still, there should be a place for Harrison somewhere, Smither said.

Josh Malone to revisit Tennessee 

September, 21, 2012
Loss or not, Josh Malone saw enough of Tennessee to know he'll make a return visit.

The receiver from Gallatin (Tenn.) Station Camp said he'll make a return trip to Knoxville to see the Vols play this season. Malone was on hand last Saturday as Tennessee lost to Florida 37-20. Despite the defeat, Malone came away impressed the vibe on campus.

“Great college atmosphere,” Malone said. “It's really an eye-opening place.”

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