SEC's next wave of star players

March, 18, 2014
Mar 18
For the most part, we have an idea who the top returning players are in the SEC for next season.

There are 11 players back who earned first- or second-team All-SEC honors last season from the coaches, including six first-team selections: Auburn center Reese Dismukes, Alabama running back T.J. Yeldon, Georgia linebacker Ramik Wilson, Tennessee linebacker A.J. Johnson, Florida cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III and Ole Miss safety Cody Prewitt. The second-team selections returning are Mississippi State tight end Malcolm Johnson, LSU offensive tackle La'el Collins, South Carolina running back Mike Davis, Arkansas defensive end Trey Flowers and Georgia linebacker Jordan Jenkins.

Picking the next wave of All-SEC players can be tricky, and it's certainly not a given that all these players returning will be repeat selections.

So what we've done is go through and pick the 10 players most likely to emerge as All-SEC players next season, and the caveat is that they can't have previously earned postseason all-conference honors from either the coaches or Associated Press (first or second team). That rules out a few other players not listed above such as Georgia running back Todd Gurley, Missouri receiver Dorial Green-Beckham, Ole Miss offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil, Florida defensive end Dante Fowler Jr., Kentucky defensive end Alvin "Bud" Dupree and Alabama safety Landon Collins.

Here's our next wave of SEC stars, listed alphabetically:

[+] EnlargeChris Jones
John Korduner / Icon SMIChris Jones showed his big-play potential as a freshman at Mississippi State.
Caleb Azubike, OLB, Vanderbilt, Jr.: Look out for the 6-foot-4, 260-pound Azubike coming off the edge in Derek Mason's new 3-4 defense. Azubike tied for the team lead last season with 9.5 tackles for loss.

A.J. Cann, OG, South Carolina, Sr.: The anchor of what should be the best offensive line in the SEC, Cann enters the 2014 season as perhaps the top guard in the league.

Derrick Henry, RB, Alabama, So.: Just go back and turn on the tape from the Sugar Bowl. Henry is going to be a beast and is in great shape after what's been a terrific offseason for him thus far.

Chris Jones, DE, Mississippi State, So.: The league is full of good, young defensive linemen, and the 6-5, 300-pound Jones is right there near the top. He's a force at both tackle and end.

Carl Lawson, DE, Auburn, So.: The Tigers will miss Dee Ford and his pressure off the edge, but the 6-2, 261-pound Lawson is the next star in the making on the Plains.

Curt Maggitt, OLB, Tennessee, Jr.: You might have forgotten about Maggitt after he missed last season because of injuries, but he's healthy again and will be used in several different roles for the Vols.

Malcolm Mitchell, WR, Georgia, Jr.: Injuries are the only thing that have kept Mitchell from being one of the top playmakers in this league. If he can stay healthy, he'll put up huge numbers in 2014.

Robert Nkemdiche, DT, Ole Miss, So.: The top high school player in the country a year ago, Nkemdiche will move inside and has the size, power and athleticism to be dominant.

Cedric Ogbuehi, OT, Texas A&M, Sr.: He started his career at guard, moved to right tackle last season and is now in line to be the Aggies' third straight star left tackle as he takes over for Jake Matthews.

A'Shawn Robinson, DE, Alabama, So.: The team leader with 5.5 sacks last season as a freshman, Robinson has a chance to be the best defensive lineman the Tide have produced under Nick Saban.

A few others to watch:

National recruiting reporter Jeremy Crabtree joins Phil Murphy to discuss the programs with critical areas of need heading into 2015 recruiting and those teams closest to answering outstanding questions.

Ten potential 2014 SEC stars

March, 18, 2014
Mar 18

The SEC is used to having to replace a high percentage of its best players who make the move to the next level. However, this offseason could see the conference facing its biggest test yet in terms of replacing departed stars.

Only four of the 27 players who made the 2013 All-SEC team are returning to their collegiate programs in 2014. Nine left due to declaring early for the NFL draft and 14 became eligible for the draft due to finishing their senior season.

This tremendous amount of personnel departures means there will be a lot of room for players to move from "undercard" status to SEC "main event" status in 2014. The good news for the conference is there is a slew of candidates who the metrics and game tape indicate are more than capable of making the jump from part-time players to All-SEC team contributors.

Here are 10 of the leading contenders to be future SEC stars.

Corey Grant, RB, Auburn Tigers

2013 highlight play: 90-yard kickoff return for a touchdown versus Tennessee

Grant's open-field abilities were quite evident on the touchdown kickoff return against the Volunteers, and they led to his racking up a ridiculously high 12.5-yard mark in the good blocking yards per attempt (GBYPA) metric. This statistic gauges how productive a ball carrier is when given good blocking (which is very roughly defined as when the offense doesn't allow the defense to disrupt a rushing attempt) and the typical bar for top-flight production is in the 9- to 10-yard range.

Grant may end up splitting time with Cameron Artis-Payne and possibly Racean Thomas (the 28th-ranked player on the ESPN 300 list), but Gus Malzahn's extraordinarily creative play calling should assure he can make the most of his elite talent, no matter what the workload distribution is.

Kenyan Drake, RB, Alabama Crimson Tide

2013 highlight play: 50-yard touchdown run versus Ole Miss

Drake's explosive burst helped him to rank second in the conference in yards per rush last season (7.54) and finish first among running backs in percentage of rush plays that gained 5 or more yards (56.5 percent). These skills were especially evident in the highlight play against Ole Miss when he made a jump cut to make a linebacker miss, sped right past the box safety closing in for a tackle at the second level and then destroyed the free safety's angle of pursuit downfield.

3-point stance: Playoff pays off

March, 18, 2014
Mar 18
1. It might be the first unforeseen benefit of the College Football Playoff: the major programs are curtailing their junk-food intake and increasing the amount of meat on their schedules. Just last week, UCLA and Texas A&M announced a home-and-home. Here’s the best part: only two extra slots are available, yet dozens of FBS programs have upped their games. That’s quite a bang for the playoff buck.

2. Florida might be the top seed in March Madness, but there’s one viewpoint that illustrates how football dominates the Deep South. Five of the BCS teams from last fall made the NCAA Tournament field: Baylor, Michigan State, Ohio State, Oklahoma and Stanford. Five BCS teams failed to make the field: Alabama, Auburn, Clemson, Florida State and UCF. That’s two SEC teams, two football-first ACC teams, and one of the southern-most teams in the American. In related news, Alabama began spring practice Saturday.

3. A federal judge sentenced former Fiesta Bowl executive director John Junker to eight months in prison last week for his role in a conspiracy in which the bowl reimbursed employees who made illegal campaign contributions to politicians. Junker became a symbol for bowl excess, and the scandal helped usher in the playoff era. But let me remind everyone that Junker spent a lot of that excess on promoting college football as the game’s popularity exploded during the BCS era. Athletic directors, coaches and sportswriters all enjoyed his largesse. Fans benefited from it, too.
COLLEGE STATION, Texas -- For two seasons, the man donning No. 2 in maroon and white made history. Texas A&M was forever changed and a lasting imprint was left on college football.

[+] EnlargeSpeedy Noil
Miller Safrit/ESPN.comSpeedy Noil is already making a name for himself at Texas A&M's spring practice.
Life after the exit of a player of Johnny Manziel's caliber is certainly different, but when the Aggies began spring practice almost three weeks ago, No. 2 was still running around the practice field.

"Actually, I did see No. 2, he was Speedy Noil," coach Kevin Sumlin said with a hearty laugh. "And he looked pretty good today."

Yes, a new No. 2 is in Aggieland, and fans are hoping he can be as exciting as his predecessor. That's a ton of expectation to place on a high school recruit who should be getting ready for the prom, but Noil is not your typical recruit.

The five-star prospect, ranked as the No. 1 athlete in the country and the No. 7 overall player in the ESPN 300, represents the upward direction Texas A&M's football program has moved since joining the SEC. Five years ago, it would have been hard to picture the Aggies going into LSU's backyard and snagging a recruit that the Tigers wanted. But that's what they did with Noil, a product of New Orleans' Edna Karr High.

If his lofty status, success at the high school level (he led Edna Karr to a state championship in his junior season) or pure ability (the nickname "Speedy" is appropriate, given his 4.45-second electronically timed 40-yard dash) wasn't enough to excite Texas A&M fans, his confidence, represented by the fact that he's donning Manziel's jersey number, should.

Through a week's worth of spring practices (Texas A&M took last week off for spring break), the reviews of Noil have been positive.

"Man, he's good," senior receiver Malcome Kennedy said. "For him to be a high school receiver ... he already possesses a lot of skills that college receivers have. Just as far as getting in and out of breaks, fundamental stuff and technique, Speedy is far along. He's pretty much a beast, man."

It doesn't surprise receivers coach David Beaty. The veteran assistant called Noil the "best receiver in the country" in his recruiting class and said the 5-foot-11, 190-pound receiver is "explosive as anybody I've ever seen."

"Combination of strength, speed and explosiveness," Beaty said. "Really smart guy. Played the quarterback position a lot [in high school] so he has a little bit more of an understanding than some of my guys that come in. ... He'll look at it and sees the entire picture, which it takes some kids two-to-three years to do that. That's advancement for him and for us."

There is certainly a learning curve, especially adjusting to being a full-time receiver and acclimating to the pace of Texas A&M's up-tempo offense. That, along with learning the proper spacing for receivers in the offense, might be Noil's biggest challenge. But once he masters that, the Aggies are expecting great things.

"He's adjusting to it, but I see potential in him because he's athletic, he runs good routes, he has good speed, and he has good hands also," senior cornerback Deshazor Everett said. "That surprised me. He'll go up and get the ball. Once he gets the offense down, you'll see some things from him that'll be spectacular."

Kennedy, who is the lone returning starter among the Aggies receivers, said he wouldn't be surprised to see Noil make a quick on-field impact this fall.

"He takes [to] coaching well," Kennedy said. "For him to be a five-star recruit, he's very level-headed, he takes coaching well, he loves his teammates, he's always competing. He's not shy, he's up for contact, and he's just a great receiver all- around right now."

There's a long way to go for the new No. 2. But the hopes are high that he will be something special like the last person to wear the number was.

"I look at him every now and then and say 'I can't believe he is here,'" Beaty said. "He was so unattainable but with Kevin [Sumlin], I've learned that there's nothing unattainable. It's just one of those deals where you don't ever know if you'll get a player of that magnitude and who knows what he'll do? But I know what his potential is."

SEC lunchtime links

March, 17, 2014
Mar 17
Yes, it's that time of year where the talk is centered on the hardwood and brackets, but don't forget, spring football and pro days are in full swing, so there is still much to talk about on the gridiron. A sampling of news, notes and nuggets from around the SEC today:

Meet No. 4 WR Christian Kirk 

March, 14, 2014
Mar 14
Throughout this recruiting cycle, RecruitingNation will profile a number of ESPN 300 prospects in the 2015 class, including an inside look at the prospect, his recruitment, a scouting report and what college program could benefit when he ultimately makes his decision.

Few high schools in the country could lose a player like D.J. Foster and have the excitement about the future not take a dip. In his senior season at Saguaro (Scottsdale, Ariz.), Foster broke the state record by scoring 60 touchdowns -- one defensively -- as he rushed for more than 3,000 yards for the Sabercats on their way to back-to-back state titles.

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The new College Football Playoff is supposed to encourage schools to schedule better nonconference games, as teams try to beef up their schedule strength to earn one of the playoff’s coveted four spots at season’s end.

On Thursday, Texas A&M and UCLA announced that they’ll play each other during the 2016 and 2017 seasons.

Other schools have announced future marquee nonconference opponents, including Texas A&M vs. USC, Notre Dame vs. Texas, Alabama vs. Michigan State and LSU vs. Oklahoma.

Here are five other nonconference games I’d like to see in the future:

[+] EnlargeNick Saban, Urban Meyer
Kevin C. Cox/Getty ImagesUrban Meyer and Nick Saban have faced off for SEC titles, but their current teams, Ohio State and Alabama, have played only three times in history.
1. Alabama vs. Ohio State: Alabama’s Nick Saban and OSU’s Urban Meyer dominated the SEC when Meyer was coaching at Florida, combining to win five BCS national championships from 2006 to 2012.

When Meyer was still coaching at Florida, the Crimson Tide and Gators played in two of the most anticipated SEC championship games. The No. 2 Gators beat the No. 1 Tide 31-20 in 2008, and then the Tide turned the tables on No. 1 UF with a 32-13 win in 2009.

Alabama and Ohio State have played only three times in history, with the Tide winning each time, most recently in a 24-17 victory in the 1995 Citrus Bowl.

2. Texas vs. Texas A&M: Perhaps the biggest casualty in conference realignment, Texas and Texas A&M haven’t played each other since the Aggies bolted the Big 12 for the SEC after the 2011 season. Sadly, there are no plans for the in-state rivals to play again in future regular seasons.

The Aggies and Longhorns played each other 118 times from 1894 to 2011, with their annual meeting traditionally being played on Thanksgiving Day. UT won nearly twice as many games as the Aggies (76-37-5), including nine of the last 12 meetings.

With former Louisville coach Charlie Strong taking over at Texas, and Kevin Sumlin building the Aggies into an SEC powerhouse, the game would also pit two of the sport’s best African-American coaches against each other.

3. Oregon vs. Baylor: Two of the game’s most explosive offenses -- and two of its best-dressed teams -- would undoubtedly light up the scoreboard if they ever played. In fact, the contest would probably look more like a track meet.

Under coach Art Briles, the Bears have become the Ducks of the Southwest, with their hurry-up, spread offense and myriad flashy uniforms closely resembling what Chip Kelly and then Mark Helfrich built at Oregon. The Bears and Ducks follow the same blueprint on offense: play fast and score fast.

We hoped to see this matchup in the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl last season, but alas, it didn’t happen. Oregon and Baylor have never met on the gridiron.

4. Michigan vs. USC: Two of the sport’s traditional heavyweights have faced each other eight times in the Rose Bowl Game Presented by Vizio, but only twice during the regular season -- in 1957 and 1958.

The Trojans won the last three meetings in the Rose Bowl, 32-18 in 2007, 28-14 in 2004 and 17-10 in 1990. USC has won six of the past seven meetings overall and holds a 6-4 advantage all-time.

We might have seen this matchup during the regular season if a Big Ten/Pac-12 scheduling partnership hadn’t fallen apart in 2012.

5. Georgia vs. Florida State: UGA coach Mark Richt was a longtime assistant under legendary FSU coach Bobby Bowden before taking over the Bulldogs, and he recently poached defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt off the Seminoles’ staff.

The Bulldogs and Seminoles go head-to-head for a lot of recruits every year, and Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher upgraded his roster by effectively recruiting South Georgia and Atlanta.

The Bulldogs and Seminoles have played 11 times and only once since 1984 -- UGA defeated FSU 26-13 in the 2003 Sugar Bowl. Georgia leads the all-time series, 6-4-1.

SEC's lunch links

March, 13, 2014
Mar 13
LSU, Missouri, Ole Miss, South Carolina, Tennessee and Vanderbilt have all opened spring practice. Forget one day closer to the weekend, we're one day closer to more teams around the SEC starting camp. Alabama gets going on Saturday and Arkansas will follow suit on Sunday.

A&M, UCLA agree to home and home

March, 13, 2014
Mar 13

COLLEGE STATION, Texas -- Texas A&M and UCLA have agreed to a home-and-home series in 2016 and 2017, the schools announced Thursday.

The Aggies will host the Bruins at Kyle Field -- which is undergoing a $450 million renovation that is scheduled for completion in 2015 -- on Sept. 3, 2016, and UCLA will host Texas A&M at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena on Sept. 2, 2017. UCLA has never played at Kyle Field; the Aggies haven't played a regular-season game in California since 1992 against Stanford.

Both programs have risen in the past two years. The Aggies are 20-6 in two seasons under Kevin Sumlin, and the Bruins are 19-8 since Jim Mora took over prior to the 2012 season. Both coaches were rewarded with new contracts late last year.

The teams have met four times, splitting the series 2-2. The most recent meeting came in 1998; the previous three were all before 1960.

"We are very pleased this series was able to come together and provides our program with an exciting, premier nonconference matchup against UCLA," Texas A&M athletic director Eric Hyman said in a statement. "UCLA brings one of the top programs from the West Coast to the redeveloped Kyle Field in Aggieland, and for our Aggie team and the 12th Man to have the chance to play in the Rose Bowl is a historic opportunity."

UCLA also announced it has rescheduled its home and home with Rutgers to accommodate the Texas A&M series and agreed to a series with San Diego State for 2019 and 2020. The Bruins and Scarlet Knights will now play in 2020 and 2021.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

(Read full post)

The only head-coaching change in the SEC following this past season was at Vanderbilt, where Derek Mason took over for James Franklin.

That's down from four head-coaching changes the previous year. In fact, Mason will be the 38th different head coach to coach in a game for one of the current SEC schools since the start of the 2004 season.

Even in the volatile world of the SEC, that's a ton. But change is a part of this league's fabric. With 11 of the 14 head coaches making $3 million or more per year, there is no such thing as a five-year plan anymore. Some would argue there's not even a four-year plan.

[+] EnlargeRoper
Jeff Barlis/ESPNFlorida hopes new offensive coordinator Kurt Roper will help improve its anemic offense in 2014.
Since the end of last season, we've also seen several changes in the assistant-coaching ranks in the SEC. The five coaching staffs that will return intact next season are Auburn, Missouri, Ole Miss, South Carolina and Tennessee.

One assistant, Arkansas defensive line coach Charlie Partridge, left for a head-coaching gig at Florida Atlantic. His former colleague with the Hogs, Chris Ash, left his post as co-defensive coordinator for the same job at Ohio State.

Georgia's entire defensive staff has a new look, triggered largely by Todd Grantham's move to Louisville as defensive coordinator. Former Florida State defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt replaces Grantham along with three other new defensive assistants.

Alabama coach Nick Saban has his fourth different offensive coordinator since coming to Tuscaloosa in 2007. Lane Kiffin, who's no stranger to the SEC after his turbulent 14 months as Tennessee's head coach in 2009, will call the Tide's plays in 2014.

One of the most critical hires was at Florida, where offensive coordinator Kurt Roper comes over from Duke with the mission of resurrecting the Gators' offense.

Here's a rundown of the coaching changes (head coaches and position coaches only; number of new coaches in parentheses):


Who's in?

Lane Kiffin, offensive coordinator/quarterbacks
Bo Davis, defensive line

Who's out?

Doug Nussmeier, offensive coordinator/quarterbacks
Chris Rumph, defensive line coach
Greg Brown, secondary

Other moves

  • Kevin Steele moves onto the field as inside linebackers coach and will serve as special assistant to the head coach. He was the Tide's player personnel director last season.
  • Defensive coordinator Kirby Smart will coach the secondary after coaching linebackers last season.

Who’s in?

Robb Smith, defensive coordinator/secondary
Clay Jennings, secondary
Rory Segrest, defensive line/specialists

Who's out?

Chris Ash, defensive coordinator
Charlie Partridge, defensive line
Taver Johnson, secondary

Other moves

  • Randy Shannon was promoted to senior associate head coach.

Who’s in?

Kurt Roper, offensive coordinator/quarterbacks
Mike Summers, offensive line
Coleman Hutzler, special teams coordinator

Who’s out?

Brent Pease, offensive coordinator/quarterbacks
Tim Davis, offensive line
Jeff Choate, special teams/outside linebackers


Who’s in?

Jeremy Pruitt, defensive coordinator/secondary
Tracy Rocker, defensive line/weak-side linebackers
Mike Ekeler, inside linebackers/special teams
Kevin Sherrer, strong-side linebackers/nickel backs

Who’s out?

Todd Grantham, defensive coordinator
Chris Wilson, defensive line
Kirk Olivadotti, inside linebackers
Scott Lakatos, secondary


Who’s in?

Craig Naivar, special teams/safeties

Who’s out?

Bradley Dale Peveto, special teams/safeties

LSU (2)

Who’s in?

Jeff Grimes, offensive line/running game coordinator
Bradley Dale Peveto, special teams coordinator

Who’s out?

Greg Studrawa, offensive line
Thomas McGaughey, special teams coordinator


Who’s in?

Brian Johnson, quarterbacks

Who’s out?

Les Koenning, offensive coordinator/quarterbacks


Who's in?

Terry Joseph, secondary

Who's out?

Marcel Yates, co-defensive coordinator/secondary

Other moves

  • Jake Spavital will call plays in 2014 as offensive coordinator. He was the co-offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach last season.
  • Clarence McKinney moves back to running backs after calling the plays last season as offensive coordinator.

Who’s in?

Derek Mason, head coach
Karl Dorrell, offensive line/quarterbacks
David Kotulski, defensive coordinator/inside linebackers
Marc Lubick, receivers
Keven Lightner, offensive line
Gerry Gdowski, tight ends
Brett Maxie, secondary
Kenwick Thompson, outside linebackers
Frank Maile, defensive line

Who’s out?

James Franklin, head coach
John Donovan, offensive coordinator/running backs
Bob Shoop, defensive coordinator/safeties
Ricky Rahne, quarterbacks
Herb Hand, offensive line
Josh Gattis, receivers
Brent Pry, co-defensive coordinator/linebackers
Sean Spencer, defensive line
George Barlow, secondary
Editor's note: With Texas A&M taking a brief hiatus from the football field concurrent to the school's spring break this week, we'll look back at notes and nuggets from the first five practices of spring football for the Aggies. Here's the fourth installment:

COLLEGE STATION, Texas -- Texas A&M has only had a week's worth of spring practice. There are still many months to come until the Aggies are even close to naming a starting quarterback, but the battle to become the next signal-caller in Aggieland is in full swing.

How did it look after five practices?

"I've seen a bunch of guys that are pretty good," Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin said. "There's a great competition."

Each of the three candidates -- senior Matt Joeckel, sophomore Kenny Hill and freshman Kyle Allen -- have been able to rotate turns working with the first team throughout the early practices and each have made progress, according to Sumlin.

[+] EnlargeHill
Bob Levey/Getty ImagesSophomore Kenny Hill is one of three players vying to replace Johnny Manziel as Texas A&M's starting quarterback.
"Matt's really competing at a high level and he should. He's been around here forever," Sumlin said. "He understands the offense and has played in games and has really, really, improved.

"Kenny is a lot more focused right now and is doing some good things. The young guy [Allen] has come in and is making strides every day. You don't expect him to be where those guys are at this point."

While each has their strengths, you won't find any with the scrambling ability that their predecessor, Johnny Manziel, had. The 2012 Heisman Trophy winner's elusiveness separated him from other quarterbacks. Joeckel, Hill and Allen better resemble the prototype that fits the offense Sumlin and offensive coordinator Jake Spavital have spent the last six years working in.

"These types of quarterbacks that we have here are similar to what I had at West Virginia and Oklahoma State, and you've just got to utilize their strengths and take advantage of what they do best," Spavital said. "They're obviously probably going to be more pocket-passer guys, but I think some of them are mobile enough to maybe get some things out there on the perimeter."

Each quarterback is at a different stage in terms of how much of the offense they've been given, Sumlin said. For Joeckel and Hill, that's an advantage. For Allen, who has been on campus since January as an early enrollee who signed with the 2014 recruiting class, inexperience is the primary hurdle right now.

"He's got to learn the offense," Sumlin said of Allen. "We have to put him in a position where he can be successful with not giving him the whole menu and letting him play in a style that benefits him and where he's comfortable. Realistically, Matt should have everything. Kenny should have a little less than everything and [Allen] should have a lot less than both those guys at this point. We're a third of the way through [spring]. He shouldn't have everything. He'll get more and more as we go and we'll be able to assess a little bit more. After five practices I think all of those guys are right where you thought they'd be."

SEC's lunchtime links

March, 12, 2014
Mar 12
Hard-working reporters put in some long hours for the NFL's first day of free agency. It was so packed with news, it was almost like a mini national signing day.
COLLEGE STATION, Texas -- Going into spring football there was one spot on the Texas A&M offensive line expected to play host to serious competition for a starting job: right tackle.

Initially, two junior college transfers, Avery Gennesy and Jermaine Eluemunor, were the early candidates expected to compete for the position.

But with versatile talent across its offensive line, Texas A&M had other options to explore as well. So far, the Aggies have done just that in experimenting with yet another candidate: sophomore Germain Ifedi.

"With the two new JC guys and then moving Ced [Ogbuehi] to left [tackle], we've actually experimented with a little Germain Ifedi at right tackle," Aggies coach Kevin Sumlin said. "He thinks he's skinny anyways at 324 [pounds]."

The 6-foot-5 Ifedi was the Aggies' full-time starter at right guard last season, his first as a starter after redshirting in 2012.

The Aggies like having versatile offensive linemen and have utilized them as such in the past. Last season, Jake Matthews played left tackle but spent two games at right tackle. Ogbuehi played right guard and right tackle previously before making the switch to left tackle this spring. Jarvis Harrison, who is sitting out spring while recovering from offseason shoulder surgery, has been the left guard but also spent two games at left tackle last season.

So it should come as no surprise that the Aggies are mixing and matching to see what works best.

"We've created a little bit more energy during practice with those guys up front and a bunch of new guys out there anyway moving positions and trying to earn them," Sumlin said. "Whenever you have something like that, the energy level is always pretty good, I think."

While Harrison has sat out, Garrett Gramling -- who started two games at left guard last season -- has worked at left guard this spring. When Ifedi has practiced as the first-team right tackle, veteran tackle Joseph Cheek has seen time at right guard with the first group.

"He's a big dude in there now," Sumlin said of Gramling. "He's all of 6-6 and 315-320 pounds and really gives us some flexibility at guard to be able to move Germain around and Cheek. People forgot Cheek is still here. We've got some guys around that give us some quality depth in the offensive line."

When it comes to Gennesy and Eluemunor, Sumlin has also liked what he has seen and the work that offensive line coach B.J. Anderson has done with the entire offensive line.

"Coach Anderson has done a good job of putting them with the twos so they can get used to their technique because when they get up there with the ones, things are happening real fast," Sumlin said. "Guys get a little bit worried. Avery is really, really athletic. Jermaine is a lot more athletic than I thought he would be. Those two guys are great additions. It just takes some time."

SEC's lunch links

March, 11, 2014
Mar 11
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.


Blue Chip Battles: ESPN 300 Update
National recruiting reporter Jeremy Crabtree breaks down the top three recruiting tugs-of-war for uncommitted four- and five-star recruits.


Thursday, 8/28
Saturday, 8/30
Sunday, 8/31