LSU Tigers: Damontre Moore

Mingo moves up Kiper's Big Board

February, 28, 2013
Now that the NFL combine is over, we know a little bit more about the draft stocks of many players looking to make the jump to the NFL.

All that running, jumping, catching and throwing in Indianapolis can make a big difference for the majority of guys, and a lot of players saw their stock rise and fall after a few hours of moving around inside Lucas Oil Stadium.

NFL draft guru Mel Kiper Jr. kept a close eye on everyone out there and has updated his Big Board Insider to reflect the performances from the few days in Indy. After the NFL combine, Kiper has 11 SEC players among his top 25 players, including six in his top 10. Before the combine, he had 12 SEC players in his rankings.

Who fell? Well, Texas A&M defensive end Damontre Moore took quite the stumble after a very rough outing at the combine. Moore went from No. 3 on Kiper's Big Board to unranked. He had a slow 40-yard-dash time of 4.95 seconds, and was weak on the bench press, doing just 12 reps at 225 pounds. That was the lowest of the 37 defensive linemen working out. Moore needs a strong pro day to get back in the good graces of everyone keeping a close eye on the draft.

While Moore tumbled down and out of Kiper's rankings, Florida defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd made a major jump, moving from No. 8 to No. 2. His 4.92 in the 40 was huge for him, and with Utah defensive tackle Star Lotulelei not being able to work out because of a heart condition, Floyd is now considered the top defensive tackle in the draft.

Even though Georgia linebacker Jarvis Jones didn't work out in Indy, he's still at the top of Kiper's board.

Here is where the 11 SEC players rank on Kiper's updated Big Board:

1. Jarvis Jones, LB, Georgia (Last week: 1)

2. Sharrif Floyd, DT, Florida (LW: 8th)

5. Luke Joeckel, OT, Texas A&M (LW: 2)

6. Dee Milliner, CB, Alabama (LW: 6)

7. Barkevious Mingo, DE, LSU (LW: 12)

9. Chance Warmack, OG, Alabama (LW: 9)

17. Cordarrelle Patterson, WR, Tennessee (LW: 21)

19. Sheldon Richardson, DT, Missouri (LW: 15)

20. D.J. Fluker, OT, Alabama (LW: 16)

22. Alec Ogletree, LB, Georgia (LW: 18)

25. Matt Elam, S, Florida (LW: 25)

SEC's DLs, LBs strong at combine

February, 21, 2013
Several of RecruitingNation's SEC sites will look this week at the players headed to the NFL combine, which begins Friday in Indianapolis, and other predraft camps. Today: Defensive linemen and linebackers.

LSU Tigers

If there's any doubt where LSU will need to replenish its stockpile after the 2012 season, watch the NFL combine. LSU has four defensive linemen scheduled to attend, including at least two who are likely to go in the first round. Add linebacker Kevin Minter and the Tigers will have five players from their front seven at the combine. LSU might have the "DBU" reputation, but perhaps it should be more noted for its defensive line production.

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Where they ranked as recruits: Defense

January, 30, 2013
Now that we’ve examined where the offensive players on the 2012 Associated Press All-SEC team ranked as high school recruits, we look next at the defensive players.

Whereas only four of the 12 offensive players (counting the all-purpose player) on this season's All-SEC team were ESPN 150 prospects, nine of the 11 defensive players made the ESPN 150 cut as high school recruits. Eight of the 11 were ranked among the top 10 prospects nationally at their position.

The only two who weren't ESPN 150 prospects were Texas A&M defensive end Damontre Moore and Mississippi State cornerback Johnthan Banks.

Here's a look back:

[+] EnlargeJadeveon Clowney
Kim Klement-USA TODAY SportsSouth Carolina's Jadeveon Clowney was ranked No. 1 overall in the ESPN 150 in 2011.

DE: Jadeveon Clowney, South Carolina -- A five-star prospect and ranked No. 1 overall in the ESPN 150 in 2011. Received a grade of 95 and described by some analysts as one of the most talented and physically impressive high school prospects to be evaluated since the advent of recruiting rankings.

DE: Damontre Moore, Texas A&M -- A three-star prospect and unranked in the ESPN 150 in 2010. Ranked as the No. 48 defensive end prospect nationally. Six of the top 15 defensive end prospects that year signed with SEC schools -- No. 4 Corey Miller (Tennessee), No. 5 Adrian Hubbard (Alabama), No. 9 Corey Lemonier (Auburn), No. 10 Chris Martin (Florida), No. 14 LaDarius Owens (Auburn) and No. 15 Justin Maclin (LSU).

DT: Sharrif Floyd, Florida -- A four-star prospect and ranked No. 25 in the ESPN 150 in 2010. Ranked as the No. 3 defensive tackle prospect nationally. The No. 1 defensive tackle prospect that year was Florida teammate Dominique Easley. The Gators also signed a third top 10 defensive tackle prospect -- Leon Orr -- in that 2010 class.

DT: Sheldon Richardson, Missouri -- Ranked No. 107 in the ESPN 150 in 2009. Ranked as the No. 8 defensive tackle prospect nationally. There were three tackle prospects ranked ahead of him that year who signed with SEC schools -- No. 2 Gary Brown (Florida), No. 4 Josh Downs (LSU), and No. 7 Chris Davenport (LSU).

LB: Jarvis Jones, Georgia -- Ranked No. 59 in the ESPN 150 in 2009. Originally signed with USC before transferring to Georgia. Ranked as the No. 6 outside linebacker prospect nationally. The No. 1 outside linebacker prospect in that class was Manti Te'o. Jones was ranked as the No. 7 overall prospect in the state of Georgia in 2009. Future Georgia teammates Branden Smith (No. 2) and Chris Burnette (No. 6) were ranked ahead of him.

LB: Kevin Minter, LSU -- Ranked No. 133 in the ESPN 150 in 2009. Ranked as the No. 11 outside linebacker prospect nationally. Counting Jarvis Jones, eight of the top 15 outside linebacker prospects that year either signed with an SEC school or wound up at one. Florida got two of them -- No. 2 Jelani Jenkins and No. 8 Jon Bostic.

LB: C.J.Mosley, Alabama -- A four-star prospect and ranked No. 99 in the ESPN 150 in 2010. Ranked as the No. 7 outside linebacker prospect nationally. The only outside linebacker prospect to sign with an SEC school ranked higher was Georgia’s T.J. Stripling at No. 5.

CB: Johnthan Banks, Mississippi State -- Unranked in the ESPN 150 in 2009. Ranked as the No. 27 athlete nationally, one spot behind eventual LSU cornerback Morris Claiborne. Banks, who grew up in the tiny town of Maben, Miss., only received the one scholarship offer from Mississippi State.

CB: Dee Milliner, Alabama -- A four-star prospect and ranked No. 16 in the ESPN 150 in 2010. Ranked as the No. 2 cornerback prospect nationally. Florida State’s Lamarcus Joyner was ranked as the country’s No. 1 cornerback prospect that year. Florida signed three of the top 10 cornerback prospects in 2010 -- No. 3 Josh Shaw, No. 5 Jaylen Watkins, and No. 7 Cody Riggs.

S: Matt Elam, Florida -- A five-star prospect and ranked No. 9 in the ESPN 150 in 2010. Ranked as the No. 2 athlete nationally. The No. 1 athlete that year was eventual Florida teammate Ronald Powell. Auburn signed three of the top 10 athletes in 2010. Two of them, Antonio Goodwin and Shaun Kitchens, were part of the 2011 armed robbery of a trailer and kicked off the team. The third was receiver Trovon Reed.

S: Eric Reid, LSU -- A four-star prospect and ranked No. 71 in the ESPN 150 in 2010. Ranked as the No. 7 safety prospect nationally. Reid was one of two top 10 safety prospects the Tigers signed that year. The other was Tharold Simon, who wound up playing cornerback. The No. 1 safety prospect in 2010 was Jonathan Dowling, who signed with Florida and was kicked off the team during his freshman season by Urban Meyer.

SEC Western Division Christmas list

December, 21, 2012
Now that we’ve seen Edward’s Christmas wish list for the Eastern Division teams, let’s see what might be under the tree for the Western Division teams:

Alabama: Another crystal trophy. Is there anything else that could possibly be on Alabama’s wish list? The Crimson Tide already have two crystal footballs in their trophy case courtesy of Nick Saban. Winning a third national championship in the past four years would make this one of the greatest runs in college football history.

Arkansas: Case of amnesia. Really, one of the best things for the Hogs and their fans would be to have their memories zapped going all the way back to April 1 when Bobby Petrino crashed his motorcycle. It’s been a long nine months in the Ozarks, starting with Petrino’s ouster and ending with a 4-8 season that was a huge disappointment. But with Bret Bielema now running the show, the focus is squarely on the future.

Auburn: Gus Malzahn’s offense of old. Any offense would do after this past season, which saw Auburn finish 115th nationally (out of 120) teams in total offense. The Tigers were shut out in each of their last two SEC games and scored 13 or fewer points in six of their eight league contests. Malzahn has proven he can put a dynamic offense on the field. Of course, given how hard the Tigers were to watch this season on offense, Auburn fans will take points any way they can get them in 2013.

LSU: Redo of Alabama’s last drive. If not for the final 1:34 of the Alabama game, LSU might be the one playing in the Discover BCS National Championship Game. The Tigers would love to have that last drive back. They were dominant defensively in the second half of that game, but gave up too much cushion on Alabama’s game-winning drive and then got caught in a blitz on the screen pass for a touchdown.

Mississippi State: Defensive line help. The Bulldogs could use some more muscle in the interior of that defensive line, not to mention a game-changer or two on the outside. They’re 11th in the SEC in rushing defense and next-to-last in sacks with only 18 in 12 games. In their four losses this season, they gave up an average of 223 rushing yards.

Ole Miss: More depth. Nobody expected the Rebels to be in a bowl game in Hugh Freeze’s first season, so this is a team that definitely overachieved after coming into the season dragging around a 14-game SEC losing streak. What the Rebels need now is more depth, especially more quality depth. It’s a big reason they had such a hard time finishing games this season. They ran out of gas a lot of times, but that’s going to happen when you take on the teams in this league with 60 scholarship players.

Texas A&M: Top juniors to return. Maybe it’s one of those wishes that’s a bit unrealistic, but imagine this Texas A&M team next season if offensive tackles Luke Joeckel and Jake Matthews, and defensive end Damontre Moore all decided to stay in school. All three are projected as first-round picks. Joeckel and Moore could be top 10 picks.

2012 SEC regular-season wrap

December, 5, 2012

Here we are again talking about another potential national championship for the SEC.

Weren’t we having this same conversation last year, the year before that and the year before that?

In fact, does anybody really remember the last time we weren’t having this conversation?

The BCS Championship Game festivities will again include an SEC team this season, and once again, it’s Alabama carrying the banner for the league.

If you think everybody else in college football is tired of seeing the SEC win all the time, try taking the temperature of fans in Baton Rouge, La., or Athens, Ga., or Auburn, Ala., over how tired they are of seeing Alabama win all the time.

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On Monday, Georgia linebacker Jarvis Jones was named The Associated Press SEC Defensive Player of the Year.

A worthy candidate indeed when you look at his flashy resume. He finished the regular season third on Georgia's team with 77 tackles, first nationally in tackles for loss (22.5) and second in the SEC (fourth nationally) in sacks (12.5).

He also led he country with seven forced fumbles.

Not too bad for a player who battled injuries all year and played in just 11 of Georgia's 13 games.

But this had to be a very, very tough vote. While Jones was fantastic in his second year in the SEC, he had some very stiff competition from the likes of South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, LSU linebacker Kevin Minter, Alabama linebacker C.J. Mosley and Texas A&M defensive end Damontre Moore.

All of them proved to be game-changers and all were worthy competition for Jones.

Let's take a look at their resumes:

Jarvis Jones, LB, Georgia (winner)

Tackles: 77 (40)
Tackles for loss: 22.5 (first nationally)
Sacks: 12.5 (fourth nationally)

Making the case for Jones: Every offense that faced Jones had to specifically game plan for him. He just has a knack for finding the ball and making plays. He completely changed the Missouri game with his interception and his sack/fumble force on consecutive drives in the fourth quarter. He essentially won the game for the Dawgs against Florida when he poked the ball out of tight end Jordan Reed's hand just before he crossed the goal line for a potential game-tying touchdown. If there's a play to be made, Jones will find it.

Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina

Tackles: 50 (37 solo)
Tackles for loss: 21.5 (second nationally)
Sacks: 13 (tied for first nationally)

Making the case for Clowney: When you talk to players and coaches around the league about Clowney, just about everyone tends to consider him the league's top player, regardless of position. He might be the most physically gifted defender in the SEC, if not the nation. After taking some criticism for his in-game endurance, Clowney turned his play up in the season's second half. He basically ended Tennessee's comeback hopes with his sack/fumble with the Vols down three and inside South Carolina's 20 late in the fourth quarter. Then he abused Clemson's backfield with 4.5 sacks in the season finale. The sack total was also a Clemson Memorial Stadium record.

Kevin Minter, LB, LSU

Tackles: 111 (48 solo)
Tackles for loss: 13.5
Sacks: 3

Making the case for Minter: He was one of the SEC's most active defenders. He averaged 9.25 tackles per game and even collected 20 tackles, 17 of them solo, against Florida. He finished the season with seven games in which he registered nine tackles or more. Like Jones, Minter is someone who just knows how to find the ball. He has tremendous speed and packs quite the punch when he goes in for a tackle. He also broke up six passes, grabbed an interception and forced a fumble.

Damontre Moore, DE, Texas A&M

Tackles: 80 (54 solo)
Tackles for loss: 20 (tied for third nationally)
Sacks: 12.5 (tied for fourth nationally)

Making the case for Moore: So, he moved from outside linebacker, had to get into better shape and had to learn a new defensive scheme. Yet, he was even better? For most of the 2012 season, Moore was the most productive defensive player in the SEC. He only failed to record at least one tackle for loss twice and didn't record at least one sack in just three games. He finished the regular season leading the Aggies in tackles and will likely become the first defensive end to lead the Aggies in tackles since Sam Adams had 78 in 1993.

C.J. Mosley, LB, Alabama

Tackles: 99 (61 solo)
Tackles for loss: 7
Sacks: 4

Making the case for Mosley: He's one of the most gifted linebackers in the SEC and just figures out ways to find the ball an makes plays. He led the Crimson Tide in tackles by 43 and averaged 7.6 tackles a game. He recorded double-digit-tackle numbers three times this year and he was the one who tipped Aaron Murray's final pass in the SEC championship game that secured the Tide's victory. He has one of the highest motors in the league and has tremendous field IQ as well.
With the season winding down, we figured we'd start looking to the future. Like, beyond bowl games future.

We are looking into our crystal ball to check out some of the SEC best who could declare for April's NFL draft early. We've talked to people around the league, those in the know at ESPN when it comes to the NFL draft, and came up with the top 10 underclassmen we feel are the best bets to come out and go the highest in next spring's draft.

Draft guru Mel Kiper Jr. updated his Big Board Insider this week and featured 12 SEC players in his top 25. Ten were juniors.

We're going in alphabetical order, so here are 10 SEC underclassmen we feel have the highest draft stock:

[+] EnlargeJustin Hunter
Jim Brown/US PresswireTennessee receiver Justin Hunter has the potential to be a first-round pick in the NFL.
Justin Hunter, WR, Tennessee: Pro scouts have drooled over Hunter's natural ability and his breakaway speed. He was a little hesitant on his knee early after undergoing ACL surgery last year, but he's made nice strides as the season has progressed, catching 65 passes for 979 yards and eight touchdowns. He has four 100-plus-yard receiving games, and some think he could be a mid-first-round draft pick in April.

Luke Joeckel, OT, Texas A&M: It's hard to find a better left tackle out there. Joeckel entered the season as a surefire first-round pick and has only helped his draft stock with an excellent junior season. He hasn't been rattled by the speed of opposing SEC ends, and has provided very good protection in the pass game. It sounds like he could be the first tackle off the board if he declares early.

Jarvis Jones, LB, Georgia: He was the SEC's top defender last season, and has been one of the nation's best pass-rushers the last two years. He really can do it all. He drops into coverage, stops the run and constantly harasses quarterbacks. He also never seems to lose energy. He's been banged up this season, but Kiper still has him No. 1 on his Big Board.

Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M: The Aggies are really getting greedy with their tackles. Matthews has been excellent all season, and could play either right or left tackle in the NFL. He's very powerful and moves well up front. He could be a late first-round pick if he decides to come out.

Dee Milliner, CB, Alabama: He has had some struggles lately in coverage, which could hurt his stock, but he's so athletic and so physical that teams will be all over him if he opts to leave early for the NFL. He can play the run, has tremendous speed and has very good field intelligence. He's defended an SEC-high 16 passes this season.

Barkevious Mingo, DE, LSU: He might not be burning up the stat books this season, but he might be the nation's fastest pass-rusher. He has been extremely agressive all season against the pass and run. He has great length, and doesn't really have to take on many blocks because of his speed. He entered the season as an early first-round draft pick, and that still seems to be the case.

Sam Montgomery, DE, LSU: It's hard to find anyone with the same on-field personality and energy. He might be bigger than Mingo, but he's chased down his fair share of running backs during his career. He has six sacks this season and 11 tackles for loss. He could have left early last year, but decided to stay and still has early first-round potential.

Damontre Moore, DE, Texas A&M: Talk about really breaking out onto the national stage. He was excellent as an outside linebacker last season, but has been an absolute monster at defensive end in his first (and probably only) year in the SEC. He really adjusted to the new 4-3 scheme, and might have played himself into a top-10 pick. He has a team-high 74 tackles, leads the nation with 20 tackles for loss and is tied for first with 12.5 sacks.

Alec Ogletree, LB, Georgia: Some think he might be better suited for the NFL than Jones because of his speed, athleticism and instincts. He had a rusty start to his season after serving a four-game suspension, but he's been outstanding in recent weeks. He can make plays all over the field, and should be a first-rounder if he decides to leave school early.

Sheldon Richardson, DT, Missouri: He is arguably Missouri's best player, regardless of position. He's constantly taking on double-teams, but figures out a way to blow them up. He leads Mizzou with 70 tackles, has 9.5 tackles for loss and four sacks. He's quick and can disrupt both the run and pass. However, his recent suspension could make his draft stock fall some.

Keep an eye on ...

Tyler Bray, QB, Tennessee: Has all the physical tools to be special in the NFL, but off-field issues could push him out of the first round.

Sharrif Floyd, DT, Florida: Has been extremely disruptive all year up front for the Gators, and could hear his name called in the second round.

D.J. Fluker, OT, Alabama: Has had a solid season, but he still needs to develop his game more, and there are more NFL-ready tackles ahead of him.

Corey Lemonier, DE, Auburn: Was very productive last season, but has fallen a bit this season. Still has all the tools to be a top 40 pick in April.

Beat writer Q&A: GigEmNation's Sam Khan 

October, 19, 2012
GTN did a question-and-answer session with Sam Khan of GigEmNation. Here are our questions and his answers as LSU and Texas A&M prepare to square off Saturday.

1. Johnny Manziel is starting to enter Heisman Trophy conversations. Are people jumping the gun on him or is "Johnny Football" all that he's being made out to be?

Personally, I think it's worth waiting to see how he plays against a top-10 team like LSU before we start talking Heisman Trophy, but so far, "Johnny Football" is more than advertised. Manziel has tremendous running ability for a quarterback, he can throw it well (though he's still progressing in that area as he grasps the offense), he's confident, fearless, seems to be a natural on-field leader and he can make a game-changing play at any time. In what was his worst performance, a three-turnover day at Ole Miss, he bounced back in the fourth quarter and made big-time throws and runs to help the Aggies come back from a 10-point deficit. It sounds cliche, but people often refer to an 'it' factor sometimes when it comes to great players. So far from what I've seen, I think he has that.

Breakfast at Kyle Field for Tigers 

October, 19, 2012
BATON ROUGE, La. -- LSU had on its agenda this week meetings with the defense about how to stop Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel, meetings with the offense about how to block Aggies defensive end Damontre Moore, and a meeting with the team's sleep doctor.

That's right, its sleep doctor.

With kickoff set for 11 a.m. CT on ESPN, the usually night-oriented LSU Tigers brought in a sleep doctor Monday to talk to the Tigers about the importance of rest.

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Five storylines: LSU vs. Texas A&M 

October, 18, 2012
BATON ROUGE, La. -- LSU coach Les Miles knows Texas A&M well. He coached at A&M's home stadium, Kyle Field, as head coach at Oklahoma State, but was first introduced to Aggies football while he was a Dallas Cowboys assistant coach in the late 1990s.

Living in the Dallas suburbs, he said he'd notice A&M fans when he'd take his kids to youth sports.

"There was a constant flow of A&M fans," he said. He quickly learned they were a passionate bunch about their team.

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Young LSU line will get to know Moore

October, 16, 2012
BATON ROUGE, La. -- Watch tape of Texas A&M defensive end Damontre Moore and you'll see an assortment of looks.

[+] Enlarge
Thomas Campbell/US PresswireTexas A&M defensive end Damontre Moore has 8.5 sacks to lead the SEC.
He'll line up on the right side of the line, or maybe on the left. On some plays, he'll be lined up wide of the offensive tackle, others straight up.

On some plays, he'll try to use speed to sprint around the outside shoulder of the tackle. On others, he'll use a quick move and great strength for a 255-pounder to get to the inside of the tackle right into the face of the quarterback.

It's added up to 8.5 sacks -- an SEC best -- in six games for the junior as the Aggies prepare to host LSU on Saturday. He had three sacks against Florida, proof that he didn't accumulate his numbers against the softer teams on the Aggies' schedule.

Asked about Moore, LSU coach Les Miles said, "We're going to be challenged," but quickly added, "as we have in the past."

The Tigers are hoping recent experience with top-flight pass rushers will help the young offensive line contain one of the nation's most disruptive players. In last week's 23-21 win over South Carolina and monster defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, LSU performed well. This week, while much of the attention will be on LSU's ability to defend Aggies dual-threat quarterback Johnny Manziel, the Tigers' ability to contain another elite pass rusher may again prove crucial.

Coming into the South Carolina game, the perception was LSU could not protect its quarterback, with 15 sacks allowed in its first six games. But against the Gamecocks, not only did the Tigers keep quarterback Zach Mettenberger clean (one sack allowed), they battered arguably the best front they've seen to date for 258 rushing yards.

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Alex Hurst John Korduner/Icon SMIThe status of Alex Hurst (pictured) and Josh Williford are still undetermined for Saturday, but the LSU offensive line is coming off its best performance of the season this past weekend.
BATON ROUGE, La. -- It's telling that it took until the last question of LSU coach Les' Miles Monday news conference before somebody finally asked about the starting right side of the offensive line that was absent in last week's 23-21 win over South Carolina.

Miles said he didn't know how either tackle Alex Hurst or guard Josh Williford were doing and "I don't have any update that would change status."

Williford missed the South Carolina game with a head injury while Hurst left the team last week for personal reasons, leaving the Tigers all an all-freshman right side of the line line with Vadal Alexander at tackle for a third straight game (Hurst had actually been playing left tackle because of an injury to Josh Dworaczyk) and Trai Turner, who made his starting debut at right guard.

If one wants to know why it took so long for questions about the veterans to come up, all you had to do is listen to Miles' opening statement.

"I have to give special mention to those two young guys," he said. "Trai Turner, in his first start, and Vadal Alexander, in his first appreciable playing time in his early career, both played very well."

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2012 SEC midseason overview

October, 15, 2012
The sun sets in the West, but it’s the rise of the East that has been the big story during the first part of the SEC season.

Not since Florida in 2008 has a team from the East won the SEC championship, and it was only two years ago that a three-loss team in the East (South Carolina) made it to the SEC championship game.

In fact, South Carolina was the only team in the East with a winning conference record that season, and four of the six teams in the East finished with losing overall records.

It was a similar story a year ago. Four of the six teams in the East finished with losing conference records.

The “Least of the East” jokes were well deserved.

But as we look ahead to the second half of this season, the landscape has changed.

The first BCS standings were released Sunday night, and three of the top 11 teams were from the Eastern Division. Right there behind Alabama at No. 1 was Florida at No. 2, while South Carolina was No. 7 and Georgia No. 11.

“I think people would say there are more than two teams [from the SEC] that could contend for a national title right now,” Georgia coach Mark Richt said.

And, yes, those same two teams from a year ago are still right there in the hunt, the same two teams that played for the national championship last season: Alabama and LSU.

Alabama has yet to have a close game this season. The only thing that remotely qualifies was the Crimson Tide’s 33-14 win over Ole Miss the last weekend of September. Alabama actually trailed in the second quarter of that game (for 15 seconds), which was the first time the Crimson Tide had trailed after the first quarter in regulation since the end of the 2010 season.

Alabama, which hasn’t allowed more than 14 points in its first six games, will find out a lot more about itself over the next month. The Crimson Tide travel to Tennessee on Saturday, and then it’s three straight games against nationally ranked foes -- No. 12 Mississippi State at home, No. 6 LSU on the road and No. 18 Texas A&M at home.

The Alabama players have become accustomed to being the team everybody is gunning for, but they’re more worried about themselves than they are anybody else.

“There are a lot of great teams all over college football,” Alabama senior safety Robert Lester said. “Any team is capable of beating you if they execute and do what they need to do.

“We’re not worried about being No. 1 and looking at any other teams in our conference and wondering about what they’re doing or how they’re playing, because as long as we do what we’re capable of doing, we feel like we’re going to beat them.”

So far, that formula has worked just fine for the Crimson Tide, who have won two of the past three national championships.

But with six SEC teams in the top 12 of the first BCS standings, Alabama is far from the only team in this league with its eyes on the top prize in 2012.

[+] EnlargeMike Gillislee
Kim Klement/US PresswireHis numbers may not wow you, but RB Mike Gillislee has been vital to Florida's success this season.
Offensive MVP: Florida RB Mike Gillislee

He’s not the leading rusher in the league, and his numbers aren’t nearly as gaudy as what Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel has put up to this point. Nonetheless, Gillislee has meant everything to that Florida offense. He’s rushed for 615 yards in his first six games and has allowed the Gators to play their physical brand of football that’s been so successful. He was sensational in the second half of the 14-6 win over LSU and has come through every time the Gators have needed him. Without him, there’s no way this team would be where it is right now.

Defensive MVP: South Carolina DE Jadeveon Clowney

Although LSU was able to keep Clowney at bay in the second half Saturday, he’s been the SEC’s premier game-changer defensively through the first half of the season. He’s freakishly athletic and, at 6-foot-6 and 256 pounds, has the size to give anybody he goes against fits. Good luck in trying to block him one-on-one. Clowney has 12 tackles for loss and 6.5 sacks, both second in the SEC. That’s not counting all of the other big plays he’s created for the South Carolina defense with his relentless pressure. Honorable mention goes to Texas A&M defensive end Damontre Moore and Alabama linebacker C.J. Mosley.

Newcomer of the Year: Texas A&M QB Johnny Manziel

Manziel’s numbers as a senior in high school were straight out of a video game. He passed for 45 touchdowns and rushed for 30 touchdowns. Obviously, he’s not going to put up those kind of numbers in the SEC, but he’s still making life miserable for opposing defensive coordinators. He’s second nationally in total offense with 2,356 yards and is becoming much more than just an athlete playing quarterback. Already, he has two games this season in which he’s surpassed the 500-yard mark in total offense, making him the first player in SEC history to do that. Not bad for a redshirt freshman who’s played just six college games.

Biggest surprise: Florida

There was hope in Gator Land that Florida would be better in Will Muschamp’s second season, and for that matter, the Gators needed to be better. No team in the league, though, has made the kind of improvement from last season to this season as Florida, which has already won five league games and debuted at No. 2 in the first BCS standings on Sunday night. The Gators are doing all the things it takes to win a title and can take another big step toward winning the East this Saturday with a win over South Carolina in the Swamp.

Biggest disappointment: Arkansas

Even though the Hogs (3-4, 2-2) have won their past two games, their September collapse was stunning. You’re talking about a team that started the season ranked No. 10 nationally and harbored national championship hopes. Those hopes were gone by the second week of the season when Louisiana-Monroe came into Little Rock and upset Arkansas 34-31 in overtime. It was the start of a four-game losing streak for the Hogs, who gave up 179 points along the way. The good news is that it looks like they could be getting well physically and emotionally for the stretch run.

Best game: LSU 23, South Carolina 21, Oct. 13

Tiger Stadium came alive as only it can on a Saturday night, and LSU’s offense also came alive, at least on the ground, to send the previously unbeaten Gamecocks packing. It was an unbelievably physical game with some big-time plays from Marcus Lattimore’s never-give-up touchdown run to Clowney’s tipped passes to Jeremy Hill’s 50-yard touchdown run that seemingly put the game away for the Tigers. South Carolina, though, fought back to pull within two and had the ball with 35 seconds remaining. Craig Loston’s interception finally sealed it.

Best coach: Florida’s Will Muschamp

It’s amazing what Muschamp has done with the Florida program in a year and the way he’s transformed it into exactly what he had envisioned when he took the job. The Gators are physical. They’re committed to running the ball, and they play championship-caliber defense. What’s more, they’ve allowed just 23 second-half points in six games. That’s after melting in the fourth quarter for most of their SEC games a year ago. Muschamp also gets props for hiring offensive coordinator Brent Pease, who’s given this offense new life. Ole Miss’ Hugh Freeze and Mississippi State’s Dan Mullen also deserve mention for the jobs they’ve done to this point, but Muschamp takes home the midseason award.

Trust key for LSU passing game

October, 11, 2012
BATON ROUGE, La. -- In the season's first six games, LSU wide receivers have caught 65 passes -- not many when one considers that the Tigers have dropped close to 20.

Still, wide receiver Jarvis Landry doesn't want to portray the group as "struggling."

"We're not struggling at all," Landry said. "We're just trying to put [quarterback Zach Mettenberger] into a rhythm."

[+] EnlargeZach Mettenberger
Derick E. Hingle/US PresswireLSU quarterback Zach Mettenberger says, "We're so close to being a good offense."
It seems, right now, each part of LSU's passing game is dancing to its own song, perhaps a step off the beat. The offensive line has struggled to protect Mettenberger, both in terms of physically handling assigned blocks and getting to the proper block. Receivers have struggled to consistently run the right routes or run them well, and have struggled to hang on to catchable throws. Mettenberger tries to do too much and turns the ball over.

It adds up to a passing game that is 12th in the SEC (195.7 yards per game) and eighth in pass efficiency.

One would think the Tigers need to drastically improve to have any chance to rebound from last week's 14-6 loss to Florida. The Tigers continue to face a gantlet going forward, starting with Saturday's home game against South Carolina and continuing with games against Texas A&M and Alabama.

South Carolina leads the SEC in sacks, while A&M has the SEC's individual sack leader (Damontre Moore). Alabama has the nation's best defense.

It's hard to imagine LSU being able to simply run at any of the three. And if the Tigers are to balance the run with the pass, they will have to be much more in rhythm with each other than they have been, particularly recently.

The problems, they say, are largely ones that are correctable, which had many of those involved in the passing game frustrated a bit this week.

"We're so close to being a good offense," Mettenberger insisted.

What keeps it from happening?

"Little things," Landry said.

(Read full post)

Little buzz as LSU enters SEC gauntlet 

October, 1, 2012
BATON ROUGE, La. -- LSU is off to a 5-0 start, but the Tigers have seen their ranking drop from No. 1 in the first preseason poll to No. 4 in Sunday's latest AP poll.


A schedule against five teams with a combined 8-14 record -- a list that includes teams from the FCS (2-2 Towson), the WAC (0-5 Idaho) and The Sun Belt (2-3 North Texas) -- has done little to inspire. Even LSU's one SEC game so far was versus a 1-3 Auburn team that appears to be going through a down year. And LSU struggled to win that one, holding on for a 12-10 win.

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Rabalais looks ahead at LSU's FB schedule
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