So what we’ve done is taken on the monumental task of selecting an All-SEC team from the BCS era, which officially ended last Monday with Florida State’s 34-31 victory over Auburn in the VIZIO BCS National Championship.
To be eligible, a player had to have played at least one season in the SEC at any time between 1998 and 2013. More weight was given to those players who had longer careers and displayed consistency over the course of their careers.
Before the second-guessing commences, there were some spectacular players -- even a few players who won national awards such as the Heisman Trophy -- that were left off this team.
Nonetheless, it’s one star-studded team.
Here’s a look:
RB -- Mark Ingram, Alabama: In 2009, Ingram became the first Alabama player to win the Heisman Trophy with a 1,658-yard rushing season. He rushed for 42 career touchdowns, breaking Shaun Alexander's school record.
RB -- Darren McFadden, Arkansas: A two-time winner of the Doak Walker Award, McFadden averaged 120.8 rushing yards per game for his career, second only to Herschel Walker and Emmitt Smith in the SEC.
WR -- A.J. Green, Georgia: He combined speed, size and incredible body control to haul in 23 touchdown catches in 31 career games. Green caught more than 50 passes in each season from 2008 to 2010.
WR -- Josh Reed, LSU: The Biletnikoff Award winner as the top receiver in the country in 2001, Reed hauled in 17 touchdown catches in his last two seasons. He set the SEC single-season record in 2001 with 1,740 receiving yards.
TE -- Jason Witten, Tennessee: It’s hard to beat Witten in any era as both a receiving and blocking tight end. He had seven career touchdown catches, including five during his All-SEC junior season in 2002.
AP -- Percy Harvin, Florida: Harvin was Mr. Everything for the Gators on their 2008 national championship team and a two-time All-American. He finished his career with 32 touchdowns (19 rushing and 13 receiving).
OL -- Shawn Andrews, Arkansas: Andrews is the last player to win the Jacobs Award as the SEC’s top blocker in back-to-back seasons (2002 and 2003). The Hogs’ massive offensive tackle was a consensus All-American in both of those seasons.
OL -- Barrett Jones, Alabama: Jones was a part of three national championship teams at Alabama and started at every position on the line but left guard during his career. He won the Rimington Trophy in 2012 as the country’s top center and won the Outland Trophy a year earlier as the Tide’s left tackle.
OL -- Marcus McNeill, Auburn: A two-time All-America selection at offensive tackle, McNeil paved the way for the Tigers' explosive rushing attack and was a huge part of their unbeaten 2004 SEC championship team.
OL -- Chris Samuels, Alabama: The Crimson Tide have been stocked with menacing offensive linemen during their storied history, and Samuels is right there near the top. The big offensive tackle won the Jacobs Award and Outland Trophy in 1999 and helped lead Alabama to an SEC title.
C -- Maurkice Pouncey, Florida: Also a standout guard earlier in his career, Pouncey gravitated to center and won the Rimington Award in 2009 as the nation’s top center. He was a devastating blocker and made 40 starts in 41 career games.
DL -- Glenn Dorsey, LSU: The most decorated SEC defensive tackle of the BCS era, Dorsey won the Outland Trophy and both the Lombardi and Nagurski awards in 2007. He was the centerpiece of that LSU national championship defense in 2007.
DL -- John Henderson, Tennessee: A two-time All-American, Henderson is one of just five defensive players in the BCS era to win the Outland Trophy (2000) as college football’s most outstanding interior lineman.
DL -- David Pollack, Georgia: Pollack joined Herschel Walker as Georgia’s only three-time, first-team All-Americans. He racked up a school-record 36 sacks from his defensive end position and was a two-time SEC Defensive Player of the Year in helping the Bulldogs win the 2002 SEC title, their first in 20 years.
LB -- C.J. Mosley, Alabama: Mosley is the only player in the Nick Saban era at Alabama to have back-to-back 100-tackle seasons and was a part of two national championship teams. He was terrific in coverage and an even better tackler.
LB -- Patrick Willis, Ole Miss: Before he found stardom in the NFL, Willis terrorized the SEC and won the Butkus Award in 2006 as college football’s top linebacker. He was a tackling machine for the Rebels and the quintessential middle linebacker.
LB -- Al Wilson, Tennessee: The heart and soul of Tennessee's 1998 national championship team, Wilson was a playmaking machine at middle linebacker for the Vols. He was a two-time All-SEC selection and consensus All-American his senior season.
CB -- Champ Bailey, Georgia: One of the most versatile players in SEC history, Bailey participated in more than 1,000 plays during the 1998 season and won the Bronko Nagurski Trophy as the nation’s best defensive player.
CB -- Patrick Peterson, LSU: No matter where Peterson lined up, he was the most explosive player on the field. As a cornerback, few were better. He won the Thorpe and Bednarik awards in 2010 and scored touchdowns three different ways during his career: punt return (two), interception return and return of a blocked field goal.
S -- Mark Barron, Alabama: The Crimson Tide’s 2011 national championship defense was dripping with talent, but Barron might have been the best of the bunch. He was a three-time All-SEC selection and two-time All-American.
S -- Eric Berry, Tennessee: Berry was as good in coverage as he was blowing up ball carriers. He won the Jim Thorpe Award in 2009 as the top defensive back in the country and was a finalist the previous year. He finished with 14 career interceptions.
PK -- Billy Bennett, Georgia: Bennett is the SEC record holder with 87 made field goals from 2000 to 2003. Bennett was equally accurate, connecting on 79 percent of his kicks.
P -- Dustin Colquitt, Tennessee: A finalist for the Ray Guy Award in both 2002 and 2003, Colquitt averaged 43.1 yards a punt during his career. As a junior in 2003, he had 19 punts of 50 yards or longer and 21 punts downed inside the 20-yard line.
RS -- Derek Abney, Kentucky: His eight career returns for touchdowns (six punts and two kickoffs) are an SEC record, and six of those came during one season (2002). Abney set seven NCAA records, 11 SEC records and 14 school records.
As the last weekend before the dead period comes to an end, there is still plenty of recruiting news throughout the Southeastern Conference. Vanderbilt suffered through a difficult weekend, there were a few important commitments and some key prospects backed off their pledges. Here’s a closer look at the top recruiting news around the SEC:
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With the major national all-star games in the book, RecruitingNation has released its final ESPN 300 player rankings for the Class of 2014. The new rankings feature quite a few players who improved their stocks after performances against some of the best talent in the country. Here are seven bold predictions for what we'll see from players who moved up the charts.
A&M's class will make biggest instant impact
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The 6-foot-4, 310-pound interior defensive lineman, who had been committed to Mississippi State since November, later sent out a Tweet regarding his decision.
I have decommited from MSU .. I have to evaluate my options ..— TD Moton (@tdmoton_) January 10, 2014
Moton, the No. 50-ranked player in 2015, said he is now considering Alabama, LSU, Florida State, Ole Miss and Florida and has no time frame to narrow down his choices.
As for Mississippi State, the Bulldogs are still off to a good start for their 2015 class. They have five commitments including a commitment from ESPN Junior 300 outside linebacker Timothy Washington (Yazoo City, Miss./Yazoo City).
- James Franklin appears to have a choice between taking the Penn State job or staying at Vanderbilt. There's no word yet from Franklin.
- Four Alabama players -- offensive tackle Cyrus Kouandjio, safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, defensive lineman Jeoffrey Pagan and linebacker Adrian Hubbard -- have declared for the draft.
- Tide coach Nick Saban says former offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier did an "outstanding job" in his two seasons.
- Texas A&M offensive tackle Cedric Ogbuehi is returning for his senior season.
- In case you missed the news on Thursday, Auburn RB Tre Mason is going pro. He leaves as one of the Tigers' best backs ever. Cameron Artis-Payne looks to step into the void Mason leaves behind. WR Trovon Reed expects to move to defense in 2014.
- Scott Lakatos, Georgia DBs coach since 2010, resigned for personal reasons.
- Former LSU guard Rob Sale interviews for the school's vacant O-line coaching position, which former Tigers center Kevin Mawae also covets.
- The recruiting wars in Florida have gone crazy, and they're just getting started.
- Mississippi State is losing its strength coach to UConn.
- Season in review: Ole Miss' offensive line.
- Missouri QB James Franklin and RB Henry Josey rank among the best in Tigers history.
- Tennessee has high hopes for its early enrollees. Here's a breakdown.
Best game: This had to be Texas A&M's 52-48 comeback win over Duke in the Chick-fil-A Bowl. Right when we thought Johnny Manziel was going out on a low note, he put his team on his shoulders to erase a 21-point deficit. He struggled to get on the same page with his receivers early but finished in style with 455 total yards and five touchdowns. The Aggies outscored Duke 35-10 in the second half.
Worst BCS bowl team without a national title at stake: Alabama has been money under Nick Saban in BCS National Championship games. But the Crimson Tide have laid a pair of eggs now in the Sugar Bowl, the latest coming in an ugly 45-31 loss to Oklahoma last week that saw Alabama turn it over five times and give up 429 yards of total offense. It was reminiscent of Alabama’s 31-17 loss to Utah in the 2009 Sugar Bowl.
Best catch: Not only was Bruce Ellington’s bobbling, one-handed catch in South Carolina’s 34-24 win over Wisconsin in the Capital One Bowl a gem, but it also changed the complexion of the game. The 22-yard gain came on fourth-and-7 and set up a 22-yard touchdown catch by Ellington late in the third quarter that put the Gamecocks ahead for good.
Best quote: “I was in a zone I haven’t been in before -- ever. I just wanted this game.” -- Manziel
Best grind-out performance: LSU running back Jeremy Hill, who helped keep LSU out of the upset column against Iowa with his 28 carries for 216 yards and two touchdowns, including the go-ahead 37-yarder with two minutes remaining.
Best multi-purpose performance: About the only thing Connor Shaw didn’t do in his farewell performance for the Gamecocks was intercept a pass. He passed for three touchdowns, ran for a touchdown and also caught a touchdown pass.
Worst defensive breakdown: Big pass plays haunted Georgia’s defense this season, and the 99-yard touchdown pass the Bulldogs gave up in the Taxslayer.com Gator Bowl was perhaps the worst of the bunch. Nebraska was facing third-and-14 from its own 1 in the fourth quarter when Quincy Enunwa took advantage of a bust in the Georgia secondary and streaked 99 yards to give the Huskers a 24-12 lead. Nebraska finished with just 307 yards of total offense, and 99 came on that one play.
Worst timing: Georgia tight end Arthur Lynch has always been rock solid for the Bulldogs, but his crucial drop on a fourth-and-3 at Nebraska's 16-yard line with less than 30 seconds remaining ended any chance of a Georgia comeback. Lynch would have given the Dawgs a first down inside the 10.
Best individual performance: Manziel delivered a performance for the ages (and a performance that turned out to be his final one at the collegiate level) in rallying the Aggies from a 21-point deficit to beat Duke 52-48 in the Chick-fil-A Bowl. Manziel was 30-of-38 passing for 382 yards and four touchdowns, and he also rushed for 73 yards and a touchdown.
Best team performance: How about those Mississippi State Bulldogs? Left for dead in late November, the Bulldogs won two straight in overtime to make a bowl game. After getting bumped up to the AutoZone Liberty Bowl, Mississippi State crushed a Rice team that entered the game winners of nine of their last 10 with a 44-7 showing. Quarterback Dak Prescott had arguably his best game, throwing for 283 yards and three touchdowns and rushing for 78 yards and two more scores. The defense also allowed a season-low 145 yards.
While SEC commissioner Mike Slive was right when he said that the SEC's incredible national championship run would never be duplicated (seven in a row, really?), you can't help but wonder how much it hurt him to see his beloved conference not bring home one last crystal football.
If only Auburn's Tre Mason had come up short on that 37-yard touchdown run with 1 minute, 19 seconds left. Oh, what could have been different if he had downed the ball at the 1- or 2-yard line …
Before the Tigers' loss, the SEC lost its other BCS matchup when Alabama was knocked off 45-31 by Oklahoma in the Allstate Sugar Bowl. The national championship stung for the SEC, but this one hurt. This was viewed as certified gimmie for the league, after a historic line was put Alabama's way. But after a quick score by the Crimson Tide that appeared to set the tone, the Sooners punched and kicked their way to a more physical showing, beating Alabama at its own game.
Big Game Bob Stoops talked about SEC propaganda and backed his mouth up with a strong effort that had anti-SEC fans giddy on and off of Bourbon Street.
Still, the SEC finished with its third consecutive winning bowl season. The last time the league had a losing record in bowl play was when it went 3-4 in 2002. While the result of the BCS bowls weren't to the SEC's liking, seven other ones made the conference shine brightly.
It started with Ole Miss beating Georgia Tech 25-17 in the Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl on Dec. 30. After back-to-back losses to end the regular season, the Rebels pounced on the Yellow Jackets, holding them to their second-lowest rushing output (151 yards) of the season. Not to be outdone, Mississippi State capped off an impressive 2013 finish with a 44-7 beatdown of Rice in the Liberty Bowl.
The most exciting bowl game came later that night when Johnny Manziel said goodbye to college football by helping to erase a 21-point deficit in Texas A&M's 52-48 win over Duke in the Chick-fil-A Bowl.
The SEC flexed its muscles on New Year's Day when South Carolina downed Wisconsin by 10 in the Capital One Bowl and LSU ground out a 21-14 win over Iowa in the Outback Bowl. The day was nearly a sweep, but Georgia's 24-19 loss to Nebraska (equipped with a 99-yard touchdown pass allowed in the third quarter) destroyed the shot at perfection.
The SEC rounded out its non-BCS bowls with an exciting 41-31 win by Missouri over old Big 12 foe Oklahoma State in the AT&T Cotton Bowl, while Vanderbilt made short work of Houston with a 41-24 victory in the BBVA Compass Bowl.
The wins clearly outnumbered the losses for the SEC, but when it came down to the two big ones, the conference fell short. For all the good that this league produced during bowl season, the BCS losses will be the ones everyone remembers.
So when big dominoes fall, like Texas hiring Charlie Strong and Penn State's Bill O'Brien leaving for the NFL, the ripples fuel a whole new round of the coaching carousel.
Former Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino is back at Louisville, one of his former stops) to replace Strong. Will PSU hire James Franklin away from Vanderbilt? Stay tuned!
- Auburn's sensational running back Tre Mason will announce his decision to go pro or stay in college at 2 p.m. ET today.
- Multiple reports say Michigan has hired Alabama offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier for the same position. Could Lane Kiffin replace him? Or possibly former Bama QB Freddie Kitchens?
- Franklin reportedly met with Penn State's search committee on Wednesday and was offered the job.
- Johnny Manziel bids farewell to Texas A&M and its fans in a letter. Very classy. Expect Johnny Football talk to dominate the NFL draft.
- Arkansas hires a Rory Segrest to be its defensive line coach. He replaces Charlie Partridge.
- LSU has a number of possible candidates to consider in filling its offensive line coaching spot.
- Tennessee announced a whopping 14 early enrollees. That's nearly half of a large and important class for Butch Jones, one he hopes will contribute immediately.
- Georgia coach Mark Richt will meet today with athletic director Greg McGarity. Meanwhile, offensive coordinator Mike Bobo likes his depth.
- Maty Mauk has the inside track on starting at quarterback for Missouri in 2014.
- Kentucky quarterback Maxwell Smith and safety Ashely Lowery will miss spring practice.
- Florida's new director of player personnel is swamped with recruiting.
- A look at South Carolina's 2014 schedule. Coach Steve Spurrier has an amusing feud with Clemson's Dabo Swinney.
- Grading Mississippi State's wide receivers and tight ends.
- A season in review: Ole Miss running backs.
As with my 2013 breakout player list, I’ll outline my full look at 2014 breakout stars later in the year, but it’s never too early to get a head start on scouting college football’s next wave of stars.
With that said, here are the top 10 breakout players to keep tabs on through the spring and summer months.
1. Derrick Henry, RB, Alabama Crimson Tide
Even with T.J. Yeldon and Kenyan Drake returning, the Sugar Bowl proved that Alabama has to find a place for Henry.
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What a bowl season, starting really with Texas A&M's heart-stopping comeback to beat Duke 52-48 in the Chick-fil-A Bowl and carrying all the way through the VIZIO BCS National Championship with Florida State's last-minute drive to beat Auburn 34-31.
The SEC finished 7-3 in the postseason, and we're honoring some of the best individual performances with our all-bowl team:
RB: Tre Mason, Auburn: Until Florida State's late touchdown drive, it looked as if Mason's 37-yard touchdown run would be what everyone was talking about from the BCS title game. He finished with 195 rushing yards against one of the top defenses in the country.
RB: Jeremy Hill, LSU: LSU fans got a nice surprise this week when reports surfaced that Hill planned to return for his junior season. A few days earlier, he gave them a memorable performance in the Outback Bowl with 216 rushing yards and two touchdowns.
WR: Jameon Lewis, Mississippi State: The Rice secondary had no answers for the speedy Lewis, who finished with nine catches for a school-record 220 yards. He had a 28-yard catch to set up the Bulldogs' first touchdown, a 35-yard catch to set up their second touchdown and a 65-yard catch to set up their fourth touchdown, all in first half.
WR: Bruce Ellington, South Carolina: Ellington is leaving early for the NFL and made some NFL-like catches in his farewell. His one-handed, bobbling catch on the fourth-and-7 play was huge. He finished with six catches for 140 yards and two touchdowns and also threw a touchdown pass.
TE: Arthur Lynch, Georgia: Lynch would love to have that last pass back, but he still hauled in six catches for 69 yards, including receptions to help set up a couple of field goals.
All-purpose: Derrick Henry, Alabama: Get ready to see a lot of Henry next season for the Tide. The freshman running back rushed for 100 yards on eight carries, including a 43-yard touchdown run, and also had a 61-yard touchdown catch.
OL: Jake Matthews, Texas A&M: As left tackles go, Matthews set the standard this season. He was pretty close to flawless in the bowl game, as the Aggies rolled up 541 total yards in their stirring comeback against Duke.
OL: Greg Robinson, Auburn: The BCS title game turned out to be Robinson's final game for Auburn. The junior left tackle is turning pro and heads to the next level on the heels of the kind of performance that became the norm for him this season.
OL: Gabe Jackson, Mississippi State: The Bulldogs racked up 533 yards of total offense in their 44-7 rout of Rice in the AutoZone Liberty Bowl, and Jackson was his usual dominant self at left guard.
OL: Wesley Johnson, Vanderbilt: The veteran of that Vanderbilt offensive line asserted himself in the fourth quarter when Houston climbed back into it, and the Commodores made a living running behind him.
C: Reese Dismukes, Auburn: There aren't many centers in America better than Dismukes, and he can hold his head high over the way he played against a talented Florida State interior on defense.
DL: D.T. Shackelford, Ole Miss: The Rebels' resilient senior defensive end went out in style with seven total tackles, including a sack, and also had two quarterback hurries.
DL: Kony Ealy, Missouri: Michael Sam received most of the publicity this season for the Tigers, but Ealy was equally productive. He closed out his career with two sacks in the AT&T Cotton Bowl, giving him 9.5 on the season.
DL: Preston Smith, Mississippi State: Smith spearheaded a suffocating defensive effort by the Bulldogs with six total tackles and a quarterback hurry. Rice, after scoring a touchdown on its second possession, was held to 66 total yards the rest of the way.
LB: Serderius Bryant, Ole Miss: Bryant tied for the team lead with eight tackles, including two for loss, and also forced a fumble that led to a safety. The Rebels limited Georgia Tech's option offense to 17 points and 151 rushing yards.
LB: Andrew Wilson, Missouri: The Tigers' senior middle linebacker was everywhere against the Cowboys with 15 total tackles to earn Cotton Bowl Defensive MVP honors.
LB: Skai Moore, South Carolina: Only a freshman, Moore had two interceptions in the Capital One Bowl, the last one coming in the end zone in the fourth quarter with Wisconsin driving.
CB: E.J. Gaines, Missouri: Gaines was one of the most complete cornerbacks in the SEC this season. He capped his career with seven tackles against the Cowboys and an interception at midfield that helped set up a touchdown.
CB: Andre Hal, Vanderbilt: Despite playing with a brace on his elbow, Hal led Vanderbilt with nine total tackles, including an interception to seal the game, and also broke up three passes.
S: Craig Loston, LSU: Loston finished with six total tackles, including three for loss. He also had a key interception in the fourth quarter with Iowa threatening on fourth-and-1 at the LSU 16.
S: Toney Hurd, Jr., Texas A&M: Even though Texas A&M was torched on defense, Hurd's 55-yard interception return for a touchdown with 3:33 to play was the decisive blow for the Aggies.
K: Marshall Morgan, Georgia: Morgan kept the Bulldogs in the Taxslayer.com Gator Bowl by making all four of his field-goal attempts.
P: Steven Clark, Auburn: Clark kept Florida State pinned deep most of the night with perfectly placed punts that looked like pitching wedges. He dropped five of his six punts inside the 20, including one at the 6, one at the 4 and one at the 2.
RS: Marcus Murphy, Missouri: One of the top return specialists in the conference, Murphy combined for 136 yards on kickoff and punt returns against Oklahoma State. He had a long of 38 yards on a first-quarter punt return.
The 2015 three-star defensive end (Marble Falls, Texas/Faith Academy Marble Falls) called Les Miles on Wednesday night to chat. When the coach offered Shipley a scholarship, he offered his commitment.
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Studrawa has been a member of Les Miles' coaching staff since 2007, when he first became LSU's offensive line coach. He took over as the program's offensive coordinator when Steve Kragthorpe was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease and served in that role for two seasons before shifting back to coaching the line this season.
The Tigers ranked 32nd nationally – seventh in the SEC – in total offense with an average of 453.3 yards per game. The Tigers' scoring average of 35.8 points per game ranked 23rd nationally and sixth in the conference.
Studrawa coached two linemen who earned second-team all-conference honors this season: sophomore guard Trai Turner (media) and junior tackle La'El Collins (coaches).
TigerBait.com was first to report the coaching change.
The all-star game circuit has come and gone, and with the final high school games for the majority of top prospects in the country comes a number of commitments. As expected, the SEC conference cleaned up, as the conference now has seven of the top 10 ranked classes nationally and all 14 programs in the Top 37 in the RecruitingNation class rankings.
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No. 2 CB Sheffield Talks Recruiting
TBD Temple Vanderbilt TBD Texas A&M South Carolina 8:00 PM ET Boise State Ole Miss
TBD Arkansas Auburn TBD Idaho Florida TBD Clemson Georgia TBD Tennessee-Martin Kentucky TBD South Dakota State Missouri TBD Southern Miss Mississippi State 3:30 PM ET West Virginia Alabama 9:00 PM ET LSU Wisconsin