LSU Tigers: Kirby Smart

SEC's lunch links

July, 2, 2014
Jul 2
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The World Cup run by the USMNT is over, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the performance by goalkeeper Tim Howard on Tuesday. His 16 saves were a World Cup record, and there’s now talk that he could be the greatest goalie in history. Personally, I think he would’ve made a great safety, but clearly he made the right choice with soccer.



No, thank you Tim Howard. Now on to Wednesday’s lunch links.

SEC lunchtime links

July, 1, 2014
Jul 1
12:00
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The USMNT is back in action on Tuesday against Belgium. Winner moves on to the quarterfinals. Loser goes home. Are you ready? Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck is ready.

Watch the game here: United States vs Belgium, 4 p.m. ET

In the meantime, get your American football fix in with Tuesday’s SEC lunch links.

SEC's lunch links

March, 11, 2014
Mar 11
12:00
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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.

Early Offer: 2015 begins now 

February, 7, 2014
Feb 7
5:30
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The Early Offer is RecruitingNation's regular feature, giving you a daily dose of recruiting in the mornings. Today’s offerings: The ink was barely dry on the letters of intent for 2014 class when one of the best for the 2015 class came off the board; and what schools and recruiters have jumped out of the gate with success with players that won’t sign for another 360-plus days.

The Early Offer is RecruitingNation's regular feature, giving you a daily dose of recruiting in the mornings. Today's offerings: Oregon State coach Mike Riley launched a new Twitter campaign on Tuesday to help the Beavers connect with recruits across the country; LSU’s Frank Wilson didn’t make the first edition of the ESPN recruiting power rankings, but he could be leading the poll by signing day; and a question and answer session on Wednesday helped identify what topics are most important with recruiting fans today.

#SmartRecruitingTool
Oregon State coach Mike Riley has more than 18,900 followers and is great communicating with fans on Twitter. So it was no surprise to see him launch a campaign Tuesday called “Tweet Film Tuesday” where he asked recruits to send him links to their film, and he and his staffers will then select 10 recruits to evaluate each week. With only 140 characters to work with, Riley didn’t explain how he and his assistants would pick the 10 recruits to evaluate, but the idea is ingenious. Not only does it help Riley and the Beaver coaches communicate with prospects in a way they’re already familiar with, it also allows the OSU coaches to find prospects they might not have been familiar with who are truly interested in the program. Also with Riley’s track record of uncovering hidden talent, you can all but guarantee there will be a story a few years down the road where the Beavers found a sleeper through this approach.

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Best SEC recruiters 

October, 15, 2013
10/15/13
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video
Editor's note: For a look at the national recruiter power rankings based only on Class of 2014 success, click here.

It's no secret that Southeastern Conference has been the top conference in the country as far as recruiting over the last several years. The league currently has six teams ranked in the top 11 of the team recruiting rankings. Here's a look at the top 10 recruiters around the ultra-competitive conference.

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SEC predictions: Week 3

September, 12, 2013
9/12/13
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After two weeks, we're all tied up. As we've learned by watching the SEC Eastern Division race in recent seasons, no lead is safe.

After Chris correctly picked Georgia to beat South Carolina and I decided to stay on the Jadeveon Clowney train, we enter the weekend with identical 22-3 (.880) records. We both missed on Florida losing to Miami (Fla.).

It's a new week, and Saturday will serve as a chance for one of us to take the outright lead. Chris has been so giddy since watching the Dawgs take care of business against South Carolina. Sources told me that he was even spotted hanging with Drake and shooting hoops with LeBron. It makes me wonder how serious he is about the season. He's impressed with the past, but has he learned anything new since Saturday?

His Twitter has been pretty active the past couple of weeks …

I won't let Chris' win get to me. Champions don't do that. Champions just make adjustments and worry about what they can control. I like to call it my own process.

Meeko (the famous SEC blog cat) and I will be in the war room for the rest of the season meticulously dissecting every game from here on out.

Chris can have his famous friends and twit pics. I'll stick to winning.

Let's get to the picks:

SOUTHERN MISS at ARKANSAS

Edward Aschoff: The Razorbacks have run the ball better than anyone else in the SEC, and they have the league's leading rusher in freshman Alex Collins. Southern Miss ranks 82nd nationally in rushing defense, so expect another big game on the ground from the Hogs. … Arkansas 41, Southern Miss 14

Chris Low: Arkansas leads the SEC in rushing with an average of 312.5 yards per game. Southern Miss gave up 285 yards on the ground last week in a 56-13 loss to Nebraska. It all adds up to a 15th straight loss for the Golden Eagles. … Arkansas 37, Southern Miss 17

LOUISVILLE at KENTUCKY

Aschoff: After notching his first win at Kentucky, Mark Stoops now has to play BCS title contender Louisville -- and Teddy Bridgewater. Being at home should make things interesting early, but the Cardinals just have too much talent across the board. … Louisville 35, Kentucky 14

Low: Kentucky was unable to slow down Western Kentucky in the opener. Now, the Wildcats have to deal with Bridgewater and the Cardinals. Bridgewater might not wave off the punt team this week, but he will lead Louisville to its third straight win in the series. … Louisville 41, Kentucky 24

TENNESSEE at OREGON

Aschoff: The Vols are riding high as they head out West. But having to make a cross-country trip for what will feel like an early game against one of the nation's best teams will bring the Vols back down to earth before SEC play begins. … Oregon 45, Tennessee 17

Low: Butch Jones has them excited in Big Orange Country, and there’s a lot to like about what he’s done with that program. But reality sets in this week. The only drama in Eugene, Ore., will be whether or not the Vols can hold Oregon under 50. … Oregon 47, Tennessee 17

KENT STATE at LSU

Aschoff: The Tigers enter as a team still taking a backseat to Alabama and Texas A&M. That will probably be the case coming out of the weekend, too, but at least LSU won't be as beat up as the other guys. … LSU 45, Kent State 10

Low: LSU’s offense looks as potent as it has in some time, particularly in the passing game. The Tigers will cruise for a second straight week at home over outmanned Kent State, and then it’s on to Auburn and Georgia in back-to-back weeks. … LSU 48, Kent State 10

MISSISSIPPI STATE at AUBURN

Aschoff: We know how important conference openers are, and this game has been huge for both teams in recent seasons. A loss for either could serve as an emotional setback. Auburn's home field and it's entertaining running game will push the Tigers through in the fourth quarter. … Auburn 27, Mississippi State 20

Low: It’s hard to envision the loser of this game going on to have a successful season, which makes it a critical SEC opener for both teams. The Bulldogs have been solid on defense, but they don’t have enough juice on offense right now to go into Jordan-Hare Stadium and win. … Auburn 31, Mississippi State 20

VANDERBILT at SOUTH CAROLINA

Aschoff: With South Carolina's defense having struggled mightily last week and Vandy having some explosive elements to its offense, this one should be entertaining. There can't be excuses for Clowney, and I think he'll make sure of that Saturday. … South Carolina 30, Vanderbilt 21

Low: The Gamecocks can’t afford any more hiccups if they want to stay in the SEC championship hunt. They’ve had their struggles in recent seasons with Vanderbilt, too. The Commodores are painfully close to being unbeaten, but their drought against nationally ranked teams will extend to 14 straight games. … South Carolina 28, Vanderbilt 21

OLE MISS at TEXAS

Aschoff: Last season, Texas ran the Rebels out of Vaught-Hemingway Stadium. This season, Ole Miss heads to Austin, Texas, with a ton of confidence, while Texas players are licking their, uh, horns after an embarrassing loss to BYU. The Longhorns couldn't stop the run last week, and they won't do a very good job this week, either. … Ole Miss 35, Texas 31

Low: Texas would seem to be in disarray with Mack Brown having fired his defensive coordinator this week. Plus, Ole Miss has plenty of motivation after getting blown out at home last season by the Longhorns. But Texas is still Texas, and the Longhorns will find a way to salvage a little pride at home. … Texas 34, Ole Miss 30

ALABAMA at TEXAS A&M

Aschoff: It's the game of games. The contest to end all contests. Nick Saban versus Kevin Sumlin. Johnny Manziel versus AJ McCarron. The Aggies pulled the unthinkable last season, but Alabama has been steaming over that game for almost a year now. Johnny Football has shown improvement as a passer and he'll still be the slipperiest player on the field Saturday, but picking against Saban and defensive coordinator Kirby Smart facing a team that bested them last season just sounds silly. … Alabama 31, Texas A&M 23

Low: Johnny Football ain’t talking this week. The Aggies prefer that he do all of his talking on the field (with his play). These two teams played a classic last November in Tuscaloosa, Ala., and it should again be a ball of fun. But the Tide will prevail thanks to keeping the ball away from Manziel and that Texas A&M offense and wearing down an Aggies defense that has been shaky. … Alabama 38, Texas A&M 28

SEC recruiting mailbag

August, 9, 2013
8/09/13
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It’s time to dip into the SEC recruiting mailbag and answer your questions. Because of the amount of questions we’ve received, we won’t be able to get to all of them today -- but we encourage you to ask again next week by tweeting your questions to @DerekTysonESPN.

@cpage2911: who are the top SEC assistant coaches recruiting wise?

Derek Tyson: As evident by having 10 SEC schools ranked in the top 25 of the Recruiting Nation class rankings, the SEC is full of recruiting savvy coaches. The list is long and full of quality coaches, and I could make a case for a number of SEC coaches, but here's a glance at three coaches who stand out to me this year.

Auburn co-offensive coordinator Dameyune Craig is responsible for Auburn landing commits from five ESPN 300 members including Tre' Williams, Nicholas Ruffin, Justin Thornton, Kamryn Pettway and Stanton Truitt. Florida defensive backs coach Travaris Robinson is the primary recruiter for four committed ESPN 300 prospects -- Dalvin Cook, Khairi Clark, J.C. Jackson and Duke Dawson. He is also the primary recruiter for ESPN 300 prospects Ermon Lane and Quincy Wilson, who the Gators have a shot of landing on Monday.

Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart continues to be an outstanding recruiter and has helped the Tide stand firm in the top five of the class rankings. Smart is the primary recruiter for ESPN 300 committed players Kalvaraz Bessent, Stephen Roberts, Shaun Dion Hamilton and Zach Whitley.

@SleeperAthletes: Out of all the #SEC states, which state is most heavily recruited?

DT: As far as sheer numbers, Florida is always one of the most heavily recruited areas in the country. In fact, 17 percent (52) of the prospects ranked in the ESPN 300 are from the state of Florida. Texas is the next state in SEC territory with 34 players on the ESPN 300 followed by Georgia with 29 players.

Louisiana might not have the total number of prospects as Florida, Texas and Georgia, but what it lacks in numbers it makes up for in quality. Three of the top 10 players in the country including the No. 1 overall prospect, Leonard Fournette, and eight of the top 50 players in the country are from Louisiana.

SECfan: Will an SEC team take home the recruiting championship again?

DT: Five of the top 10 recruiting classes are from the SEC including three -- Alabama, Tennessee and Georgia in the top five. When it's all said and done, though, I believe it will be a battle between Alabama and LSU. Alabama is at No. 2 while LSU is at No. 10, and with several key targets still available LSU could certainly jump to the top.

Louisiana natives and top 10 players including Fournette, Cameron Robinson and Speedy Noil are high on the Tigers. Linebacker Clifton Garrett, wide receivers Trey Quinn and Malachi Dupre, safety Laurence Jones and defensive tackle Gerald Willis III are just some of the top prospects considering LSU and the Tigers could end up with a monster class. Alabama, however, is still very much in contention for both Fournette and Robinson which could quickly cement the Tide as the top overall class. Bottom line is, yes, I believe the SEC will land the No. 1 recruiting class for the third straight year.

How to win Alabama-LSU rivalry over time 

July, 19, 2013
7/19/13
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The Alabama-LSU rivalry admittedly is a young one. While the schools have played one another a lot in their history -- 77 times, to be exact -- the real antagonism didn't come until 2007, when former LSU coach Nick Saban left the Miami Dolphins for the University of Alabama. Ever since, it is prime-time viewing when the Tide and the Tigers meet.

Saban and LSU coach Les Miles have won four of the past six SEC titles and four of the last six BCS national championships. They've pushed each program to greater heights and established themselves as two of the top coaches in the game, all the while competing against one another on and off the field.

So far, Alabama holds the slight edge over LSU in terms of head-to-head wins and national championships, but will that last? Who will own the rivalry in the years to come? That's what we asked of TideNation writer Alex Scarborough and GeauxTigerNation writer Gary Laney. Each looked into their crystal ball to come up with three things each school must do to win the rivalry moving into 2014 and beyond.

What LSU must do to own the rivalry

1. Win the home front: Alabama is trying to go toe-to-toe with LSU for most of Louisiana's top recruits. If LSU is to hold its own or win the long-term rivalry with Alabama, it's essential for the Tigers to not only win this war, but in a rout. We all know about the 2014 class in Louisiana, featuring a handful of the nation's best players, most of whom have LSU and Alabama as their top two contenders (see Leonard Fournette, Cameron Robinson and Laurence "Hootie" Jones). This might repeat itself in what's shaping up to be a similar 2016 class in Louisiana. Given Alabama's current status as college football's back-to-back champion, it's hard to imagine LSU being able to match the Tide's recruiting without dominating its own state.

2. A transformed offense: LSU looks like it can be a defensive juggernaut for years to come. Not only does LSU have a great defensive coordinator in John Chavis, Louisiana yields Chavis an ample quantity of athletes capable of thriving in his system. That has not been the case on offense, where the Tigers have played musical coordinators and have struggled to find their stride since they last won a national championship in 2007. That's in contrast to Alabama, which a year ago had a dominant running game and an efficient passing game. LSU can't be a one-dimensional team while Alabama is a complete team.

3. A thriving state: An underrated part of LSU's success, and struggles, is the fate of the state of Louisiana itself. We saw LSU take a hit when Hurricane Katrina displaced much of metro New Orleans, which represents close to a quarter of the state's population. New Orleans has recovered and the state is at a point where, if the right buttons are pushed, it can move past recovery to experiencing real growth. We've seen in neighboring Texas, a huge growth state, that transplants have assimilated into Texas' rabid football culture and football prospect production has been incredibly strong. If Louisiana, annually the nation's leader in per capita NFL player production, experiences significant population growth with LSU remaining its sole BCS football power, matching the Tigers' recruiting base would be enormously difficult for any rival, Alabama included.

What Alabama must do to own the rivalry

1. Find a quarterback to replace McCarron: It doesn't matter how stellar the defense or how spectacular the running game: Without a solid starting quarterback, Alabama won't be going anywhere against LSU or any other team in the SEC when AJ McCarron leaves after this season. If you're not balanced in this league, you're not going to win, and you need a capable quarterback to make that possible. The difficulty of finding that man might be taken for granted, considering the consistent play the Tide has had with McCarron and Greg McElroy before him, but much of this season will be devoted toward that process. Alec Morris has nice potential and so do the trio of freshman quarterbacks Alabama welcomed onto campus this spring. UA commitment David Cornwell is a guy that can come in and compete for the job in 2014 as well. But whoever wins the gig will have his hands full.

2. Continue drawing from the Louisiana pipeline: Saban left LSU nine years ago, but he never left the state behind entirely. The relationships he maintained there have paid dividends since he came to Alabama in 2007. Since then, Saban has signed nine recruits from Louisiana, including 2012's top prospect, safety Landon Collins. Alabama is in the hunt for 2014's No. 1 overall prospect, running back Fournette and No. 1 offensive tackle Robinson, and the Tide will no doubt continue to mine the area for talent in the years to come. With each recruit signed out of Louisiana, Alabama fills its own coffers while simultaneously emptying LSU's -- a win-win scenario in any rivalry.

3. Keep Saban and his "process" in Tuscaloosa: It's an obvious thing to say, but the vast majority of Alabama's success comes from its head coach and the program he has installed in Tuscaloosa. While it's true that Saban has built a machine -- also known as "The Process" -- that seemingly operates on its own, he's nonetheless the man with his hand on the lever making sure it's working at maximum capacity. Without him, who knows how far Alabama would fall? Kirby Smart or some other coaching candidate may be the perfect man for the job when Saban leaves, but following up what Saban has done in establishing a dynasty would border on the impossible. The pressure would be incredible. The best-case scenario for Tide fans is that Saban stays head coach for as long as he wants before handing over the reigns to a successor who he could watch develop from an advisory role within the athletic department, whether that's as the school's athletic director or in some other responsibility.

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We're always looking for the next best thing. The coaching world isn't any different.

Who's the next Urban Meyer? The next Chris Petersen? What about another Brady Hoke?

Who's that next great assistant who rises up the ranks and takes over a major program ... and succeeds?

I'm not completely sure, but I have a few ideas. Here are some coaches lurking in the SEC who could be on their way to bigger and better things or are ready to take the next step with their current teams:

(Read full post)

Tide bracing for more 'shots' from LSU

January, 8, 2012
1/08/12
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NEW ORLEANS -- Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart isn’t into making guarantees.

But he is convinced that Monday’s Allstate BCS National Championship Game will feature a pair of offenses that are far more aggressive than they were in the first game on Nov. 5.

In his words, there’s “no way” it will be another 9-6 game with both teams being kept out of the end zone.

“It ain’t going to happen,” said Smart, whose Alabama defense hasn’t given up more than 14 points in a game all season. “I don’t think both teams will play it as close to the vest.”

Smart said LSU was more conservative the first time because the Tigers felt like they could control the game with their defense.

“They didn’t throw the ball vertically much on us,” Smart said. “Every game since ours, they’ve taken shots. They didn’t take a whole lot of shots against us. They probably got a little gun-shy early, because when they did, they threw the two picks and got away from it and won the game on defense. I don’t think it will be that way this time.

“They’ll take shots. We’ll be one-on-one, and we’ll either win them or we won’t.”

Smart said the Crimson Tide would be prepared for both Jordan Jefferson and Jarrett Lee at quarterback, but he doesn’t see it as having to prepare for two different guys.

“They run the same offenses. They just have more plays,” Smart said. “The preparation is very similar. You just have to be more prepared for the option with Jordan, and we will be.”

Alabama was the team that tried a few trick plays in the first game and not LSU and Les Miles, who’s renowned for rolling the dice.

With more than a month to prepare, Miles will undoubtedly have a few things up his sleeve for this game.

“They’ve got a ton of trick plays, but you can’t prepare for trick plays because you have no idea what they’re going to run,” Smart said. “You go through their history. You go through each coach’s history, where has he been, what has he run. But they’re going to run something based on something they’ve seen against us, an area where they say we’re vulnerable.

“We have no idea where that is. You try to do your job, but you can’t over-coach that because you’re playing scared.”

Size, speed separate SEC from others

January, 8, 2012
1/08/12
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NEW ORLEANS -- The rest of the college football world will be watching on Monday night.

But in the Big Easy, it’s strictly an SEC world.

The SEC will make it six straight national championships when Alabama and LSU clash in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in what will be the first matchup of two teams from the same league in the BCS National Championship Game.

The players on both sides said they don’t see the SEC onslaught ending any time soon. Already, several early preseason polls for 2012 include four and five SEC teams in the top 10.

Everybody wants to know what the common denominator is in the SEC’s success.

In short, Alabama linebacker Dont’a Hightower said it’s a combination of size, strength and speed mixed in with superior coaching.

“There are a lot of guys who are fast, or they’re big and strong,” Hightower said. “But in the SEC, you’ve got both. You’ve got guys who are 260 and run a 4.5 or 4.6 [in the 40-yard dash], and you see guys who are 200 and 210 pounds that can bench-press 500 pounds. You don’t see that in a lot of conferences.

“It’s that, and I think the coaches here have more of an edge than other conferences.”

LSU defensive tackle Michael Brockers said there’s a level of defense played in the SEC with a level of athlete, particularly in the defensive line, that other conferences can’t match.

“Look at the front sevens in the SEC,” Brockers said. “Where else do you see that kind of size, speed and depth? There are great players all over college football, but every team has them in the SEC, and I’m talking about big guys who can run and make plays.”

Alabama center William Vlachos said LSU’s depth in the defensive line is a perfect example.

“They run three or four off and bring in three or four just as good,” Vlachos said. “There’s no drop-off … in size, speed or strength.”

Depth, period, is something that sets both Alabama and LSU apart.

Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smarts points to LSU’s backfield on offense. Spencer Ware was the go-to guy to begin the season, but Michael Ford goes into the national title game as the Tigers’ leading rusher. Alfred Blue isn’t too far behind, and 240-pound true freshman Kenny Hilliard has emerged as their most powerful back toward the end of the season.

“By the fourth quarter, your linebackers are tackling them 30 times, and they’re getting tackled for the fourth time and fifth time because they’re sharing all the carries,” Smart said. “They’ve got four really good backs, and that’s what you better have in this league to be good.”

Even when the SEC’s streak hits six in a row on Monday, Hightower realizes there will be some people out there who simply won’t give the league its due.

Never mind that four SEC teams are poised to finish in the top 8 of the final polls for the first time ever or that five SEC teams finished among the top 16 in the final BCS standings.

“I feel like there’s always going to be a debate,” Hightower said. “But if you look at the six straight years of winning the national championship and all the bowl games, the SEC has always been the best overall.”
NEW ORLEANS – Alabama is still finalizing its defensive plan for Monday night’s Allstate BCS National Championship Game.

Junior linebacker Dont’a Hightower, who makes all of the calls on the field, said Friday he can’t ever remember this many checks in a game plan since coming to Alabama.

“I think since I’ve been here, this may be as many checks as we have for certain formations,” Hightower said. “I don’t know any other game that it’s been this many.”

But, then, that’s part of playing in this Alabama defense. Hightower said he’s continually amazed at the adjustments and tweaks coach Nick Saban and defensive coordinator Kirby Smart come up with in preparing for games.

“There’s no way I could sit in a room for four and five hours a day and come up with some of the stuff they do,” Hightower said.

Smart confirmed that the Crimson Tide have a broader defensive plan for Monday’s rematch with LSU, which rushed for 148 yards against Alabama in their first meeting Nov. 5.

“Maybe you take some more chances and do some extra things,” Smart said. “You hope with a broader game plan that you don’t have to use it. But if you do, you better have it ready.”

Hightower, responsible for getting everybody lined up on the field, said the mental stress of playing inside linebacker in Saban’s 3-4 scheme can be daunting.

“You definitely have to grow as you go in this defense,” Hightower said. “It’s not something you can learn in just one year. I’ve been here for four years, and there are things I still don’t know about the defense. I’m learning each and every day.

“I feel like I have a good grasp on it now, but this is definitely one of the bigger games with all the checks. Each and every day, it kind of changes or varies a little bit. We’re getting close now, so we know what kind of checks we’re going to have.”

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Thursday, 8/28
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