Jadaveon Clowney, Sammy Watkins and Khalil MackGetty Images, AP PhotoWhat do college coaches think about the NFL outlook for Clowney, Watkins and Mack?
After an active few months of debate and dissection, draft week has (finally) arrived.

What are college coaches expecting from some of the best players they coached and coached against? Here are thoughts on Jadeveon Clowney, Johnny Manziel and the rest of the top 10 in Todd McShay’s Mock Draft 6.0.

1. DE Jadeveon Clowney, South Carolina

Outside of Johnny Football, there is no draft prospect whom college coaches are talking about more than Clowney. And that’s especially the case in SEC country. Opponents were terrorized by Clowney for a couple of years, and then he had limited impact as a junior. Speculation as to why has been bandied about for months, including by the college coaching world.

Was Clowney holding back? Will that top gear return this fall? Was it simply that he got worn down by constant double- and triple-team blocks? College coaches are mostly of the opinion that the 2012 version of Clowney will be back -- and then some.

Coach No. 1: “If [the Texans] don’t take him, someone will get fired. They can’t take a chance on a quarterback with him out there.”

National recruiting reporter Jeremy Crabtree discusses the rising SEC presence in Texas, breaking down which programs besides Texas A&M have developed Lone Star inroads.
Four SEC quarterbacks are expected to be selected later this week in the 2014 NFL draft, and there’s a chance it could be five if South Carolina’s Connor Shaw is snatched up in the later rounds.

Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel is obviously the SEC’s big-ticket quarterback in this draft and could go in the top 10 picks.

Alabama’s AJ McCarron, LSU’s Zach Mettenberger and Georgia’s Aaron Murray all figure to be off the board by the fourth round.

Even though the SEC might not be known as a quarterback league, this would mark the ninth time in the last 12 years that an SEC quarterback would be taken in the first round -- assuming Johnny Football does indeed get the call on Thursday. That doesn’t count Texas A&M’s Ryan Tannehill, who was a first-round pick in 2012, because Tannehill never played in the SEC.

Granted, just because a quarterback is drafted high doesn’t mean he’s destined for NFL success. See JaMarcus Russell.

By the same token, if a quarterback isn’t drafted high (or even at all), that doesn’t mean he won’t have a successful NFL career. See Tom Brady.

The SEC school that has produced the most drafted quarterbacks, at least over the last 40 years, is LSU. The Tigers have had eight quarterbacks drafted since 1990 and 10 since 1970. Mettenberger would be the 11th.

Not far behind is Alabama, which has had eight quarterbacks drafted since 1970. However, the last Alabama quarterback to be drafted in the first round was Richard Todd in 1976. Unless McCarron goes higher than expected this year, that’s a drought that will continue.

Speaking of droughts, the last Mississippi State quarterback to be drafted, period, was Dave Marler in 1979. That’s the longest such drought in the league.

The only school even close to that drought is South Carolina. The last Gamecocks quarterback to be taken in the NFL draft was Todd Ellis in 1990. Ellis, now the play-by-play man on South Carolina’s radio broadcasts, played for the Gamecocks before they were in the SEC.

Since 1996, the SEC has had at least one quarterback selected in every draft with the exception of 2012. Again, Tannehill isn't included.

Here’s a look at the SEC first-round picks at quarterback going back to 1970:

SEC lunchtime links

May, 6, 2014
May 6
Lots more NFL draft talk and a bit from spring practice as we take a spin around the SEC with today's lunchtime links.

It's May, so we might as well look to the future while we take one last look at the past in order to figure out the present.

Illustrious colleague Mark Schlabach already helped us out with the future portion by posting his Post-Spring Way-Too-Early Top 25. In it, he has seven SEC teams ranked:

2. Alabama

4. Auburn

8. Georgia

10. South Carolina

13. LSU

14. Texas A&M

19. Florida

It's interesting to see Florida ranked inside the top 20, especially after last year's 4-8 season, but there's no way the offense will be that bad again or the injury bug will strike so hard again, right?

With Schlabach having fun with another set of rankings, we thought we'd have a little fun of our own and put together some post-spring SEC Power Rankings! Nothing like starting a little debate right after spring practice.

Let's see how perfect these are:

1. Auburn: Quarterback Nick Marshall is throwing the ball better, meaning the offense could be even more potent in 2014. The defense was much better this spring, with players reacting more than learning. You have to beat the best before you can pass them in the rankings.

2. Alabama: This team is motivated by last season's disappointing final two games. The defense lost valuable leadership and talent, but a hungry bunch lurks on that side. Alabama could be waiting on its starting quarterback -- Florida State transfer Jacob Coker -- and if the spring game was any indication, the Crimson Tide certainly need him. The good news is that a wealth of offensive talent returns.

3. South Carolina: It was a quiet spring for the Gamecocks, who should yet again own an exciting offense, headed by Dylan Thompson, Mike Davis and a deep offensive line. There are questions on defense, but the Gamecocks could have budding stars in defensive tackle J.T. Surratt and linebacker Skai Moore. There could be more stars lurking, too.

4. Missouri: The loss of receiver Dorial Green-Beckham hurts an inexperienced receiving corps, but there is some young talent there and no questions at quarterback or running back. The defense should be solid up front, but the secondary has plenty of questions.

5. Georgia: The defense as a whole has a lot to work on, but the offense shouldn't miss a beat. Aaron Murray might be gone, but Hutson Mason looked comfortable this spring and has a ton to work with, starting with Heisman Trophy candidate Todd Gurley at running back and good depth at receiver.

6. Ole Miss: Coach Hugh Freeze didn't even think he'd be talking about bowl games until his third year. Well, he's entering his third year and has a team that could seriously contend for the SEC West title. Bo Wallace's shoulder is finally healthy and the defense has a lot of potential, especially along the line.

7. Mississippi State: The Bulldogs return 18 starters from last year's team and could be dangerous this fall. If quarterback Dak Prescott can be a more complete quarterback, this offense could explode. Mississippi State owns possibly the SEC's most underrated defense.

8. LSU: We really don't know what we'll get out of this group. There's plenty of athleticism to go around, but once again the Tigers lost a lot of talent to the NFL. There's excitement about the secondary, and freshman Brandon Harris could be a special player at quarterback.

9. Texas A&M: Johnny Manziel, Jake Matthews and Mike Evans are all gone. The offense has a bit of rebuilding to do, but there are young stars in the making on that side of the ball. The defense didn't take many hits from graduation, but there's still a lot of work that needs to be done there.

10. Florida: The Gators were healthier this spring, and the arrival of new offensive coordinator Kurt Roper brought excitement and consistency to the offense. Will any of that translate to the season? Not sure at this point. The good news is that the defense shouldn't drop off too much after losing some valuable pieces to the NFL.

11. Tennessee: The excitement level has certainly increased in Knoxville, and it looks like Butch Jones is building a strong foundation. The defense still has a lot of unknowns, and while it appears the offensive talent has increased, play at quarterback is key and that position is still a little unstable.

12. Vanderbilt: After three great years under James Franklin, Derek Mason is now responsible for continuing the momentum in Nashville. Like Franklin, Mason arrived with no head-coaching experience, but he has a great base to work with. It could take a while for the offense to get going, but there's promise in the defensive front seven.

13. Arkansas: Slowly, Bret Bielema is getting guys to adapt more to his system. Brandon Allen separated himself at quarterback but will have to groom someone into being his go-to receiving target. There is still a lot that has to improve on a team that had one of the SEC's worst offensive and defensive combinations last season.

14. Kentucky: Coach Mark Stoops is certainly more excited about Year 2 in Lexington with some players emerging on the offensive side of the ball. The Wildcats still have to find more consistency in the playmaker department, and they have a quarterback battle on their hands. The secondary is a total unknown at this point, and leaders have to emerge at linebacker and defensive tackle.

Manziel 1.9 Instagram @jmanziel2

The first time many fans saw an Internet photo of Johnny Manziel, it was June 2012, an image that was seared into their collective memories: a shirtless, sneering mug shot, taken after an early-morning fight in College Station, Texas. A month later, on July 31, Manziel joined Instagram (jmanziel2) and fought the negative press with his first post: Bible verses. It was a snapshot of Proverbs 4:20-24, and the first line reads: "... turn your ear to my words ..." We did. We turned our ears, our eyes and especially our smartphones. And ever since the war over Manziel's image has raged on, culminating with judgment day: the 2014 NFL draft.

Over the next year, the mug shot would be followed by photos on Halloween featuring Manziel partying in a Scooby-Doo onesie, some candids from spring break in Cabo, a shot of him holding fistfuls of casino cash, a portrait with Rick Ross and, of course, a notorious shot of Manziel inside a Dallas club, celebrating Texas A&M's Cotton Bowl win over Oklahoma with a lit sparkler in his mouth and a bottle of champagne in his hand. Whether they were posted to his own account or courtesy of TMZ Sports, Manziel couldn't escape the smartphones, even if he had wanted to.

(Read full post)

If you’re looking at the NFL draft through the perspective of a college football fan, what does it tell you about your school?

I’ve always felt that it magnifies two things -- how efficient a school is at acquiring talent and how efficient it is at developing that talent.

As we point toward the start of the 2014 NFL draft this Thursday, it's pretty obvious that nobody in the SEC has been better in those two areas than Alabama.

In the past four drafts, Alabama has produced 13 first-round picks and 18 selections in the top three rounds. That's a staggering number.

In terms of first-rounders, Florida is next closest during that span, with six in the last four years. LSU is the only other school in the league to have produced more than four first-rounders over the last four years. The Tigers have five.

Arkansas, Kentucky, Ole Miss and Vanderbilt are the only four schools in the SEC who haven't had a first-round selection in the last four years.

Nine of the 14 schools in the league have produced 10 or more draft choices in that span. The only one of those with a losing record during the coinciding four seasons (2009-12) was Tennessee. The Vols, despite being sixth overall in the league with 13 draft choices during that span, managed just a 23-27 record.

Below is a breakdown of the top talent producers in the SEC over the past four years. Included are total number of draft choices, first-round draft choices, total number of players taken in the top three rounds and overall record from 2009-12 (in parentheses).

The teams are listed in order of their total draft choices:
  • Alabama: 29 draft choices, 13 first-rounders, 18 in top three rounds (49-5)
  • Georgia: 26 draft choices, 3 first-rounders, 9 in top three rounds (36-18)
  • LSU: 26 draft choices, 5 first-rounders, 17 in top three rounds (43-10)
  • Florida: 23 draft choices, 6 first-rounders, 13 in top three rounds (39-14)
  • South Carolina: 17 draft choices, 2 first-rounders, 5 in top three rounds (38-15)
  • Tennessee: 13 draft choices, 3 first-rounders, 6 in top three rounds (23-27)
  • Arkansas: 12 draft choices, 0 first-rounders, 3 in top three rounds (33-18)
  • Mississippi State: 12 draft choices, 2 first-rounders, 5 in top three rounds (28-22)
  • Texas A&M: 11 draft choices, 3 first-rounders, 5 in top three rounds (33-19)
  • Auburn: 8 draft choices, 2 first-rounders, 4 in top three rounds (33-19)
  • Kentucky: 7 draft choices, 0 first-rounders, 3 in top three rounds (20-30)
  • Missouri: 7 draft choices, 4 first-rounders, 6 in top three rounds (31-20)
  • Ole Miss: 6 draft choices, 0 first-rounders, 2 in top three rounds (22-28)
  • Vanderbilt: 6 draft choices, 0 first-rounders, 2 in top three rounds (19-31)

SEC lunchtime links

May, 5, 2014
May 5
A look at what's happening around the SEC:

Post-spring Top 25 projection

May, 5, 2014
May 5

Projecting Big Ten standings | ACC | SEC | Big 12 | Pac-12 | Top 25

We wrapped up conference projections for each of the Big Five conferences last week, but it is now time to turn our attention to the national scene. The post-spring FEI projections are a function of five-year program ratings, returning starters, recruiting success and quarterback reliance -- statistical indicators of teams that may take a step forward or a step back next season, all of which figure prominently into the projection model.

For each team in the projected Top 25, we provide the team's projected regular-season and conference record and their opponent-adjusted offensive and defensive projection. We also identify each team's likelihood to position itself for a berth in the inaugural national championship playoff, and highlight the three toughest games on the schedule according to these projections. The likelihood of victory in each of those games is listed as well.

Here is the post-spring projection for college football's Top 25 teams:

1. Alabama Crimson Tide (11-1 overall; 7-1 conference)

Opponent-adjusted projection: No. 4 offense, No. 3 defense
Chance to finish 11-1 or 12-0: 59 percent
Toughest games: Oct. 4 at Ole Miss (76 percent chance of victory), Nov. 8 at LSU (59 percent), Nov. 29 vs. Auburn (78 percent) 

The last time Alabama lost its last two games in a season, it ran the table the following year (2009) and claimed three of the next four BCS national championships. Coming off consecutive losses to Auburn and Oklahoma in 2013, will the Crimson Tide respond the same way this fall? Alabama has ranked among the top three in our end-of-year FEI ratings in each of the last five seasons, and the 2014 schedule features eight opponents against which the Tide have at least a 90 percent win likelihood.

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Longtime instate rivals Texas and Texas A&M haven't faced each other on the football field since the Aggies bolted for the SEC in 2012. That, however, hasn't stopped the two sides from trading barbs on Twitter.

With the NFL draft coming up, new Texas defensive coordinator Vance Bedford riled up Texas A&M fans with his Twitter views on the pro prospects of former Aggies quarterback Johnny Manziel.

Bedford started out general then he got specific:

Seriously, what do we do to get the Longhorns and the Aggies on the same field again?
If Texas A&M plans to be a serious factor in the SEC West race this fall, the Aggies will have to see significant improvement from their defense.

After a season of struggles where they ranked last or near last in the SEC in most major defensive statistical categories, the Aggies hope that some of the young players who were thrown into the fire last season benefit from that experience and show marked improvement in 2014 and that the added depth from another top-10 recruiting class can continue to raise the talent level on that side of the football.

Last week during the SEC's post-spring football teleconference, coach Kevin Sumlin discussed the state of the Aggies' defense after spring practice.

When it comes to the defensive line, the coaching staff wasn't able to get a complete picture because of players that sat out with injuries, like defensive ends Jay Arnold, Daeshon Hall and Gavin Stansbury.

"The positives are it forced Alonzo Williams and Tyrell Taylor and Hardreck Walker and Julien [Obioha] and guys like that to really step in there and get a bunch of reps," Sumlin said. "The D-line was really kind of hard to evaluate, but because of the injuries, I thought our linebackers got better."

At linebacker, Sumlin noted that one young player showed significant progress and began stepping into a leadership role.

"I thought Jordan Mastrogiovanni solidified himself in the middle and has really taken charge and really made some steps," Sumlin said. "If anything happened there, I thought that Jordan has really kind of taken over as the leader of our defense, and that's a good thing when you're young and you've played some football."

As for the secondary, Sumlin acknowledged the need for improvement at safety and that the decision to keep senior Deshazor Everett -- who flip-flopped between cornerback and safety last season -- at corner has helped him improve.

"The decision to keep Deshazor at corner has helped him," Sumlin said. "No doubt, our safety play has got to improve and our D-line play has got to improve. We will have more depth up front, but we'll have more pieces. We just have to get the right pieces in place and get them ready to go."
ARLINGTON, Texas -- ESPN 300 quarterback and Texas Tech commit Jarrett Stidham battled against roughly 70 quarterbacks from 12 states to win the Dallas Elite 11 regional competition on Sunday and earn an invitation to the Elite 11 nationals this summer.

That was the first part of good news for those who follow Texas Tech football. Having Stidham confirm after the event that he doesn’t plan on taking any outside visits to schools may have been the news that made Red Raiders fans even happier.

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Schools looking to still land an elite quarterback in the Class of 2015 had better get on the ball. That’s because the list of top-flight uncommitted quarterbacks continues to get shorter and shorter.

With Brady White's commitment to Arizona State on Friday evening, more than 60 percent of the nation’s top 30 quarterbacks have already made up their minds. There’s even less inventory if you’re looking for a good pocket-passing quarterback, as 11 of the top 15 and four of the top five have committed.

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SEC lunchtime links

May, 2, 2014
May 2
Friday is finally here. Get a jump start on your weekend with Friday's lunch links.
  • Ranking the coaches: Nick Saban remains the No. 1 coach in college football, but what fellow SEC coach moved up to No. 2?
  • It has been 38 years since Alabama has had a quarterback go in the first round, but Richard Todd, the last one to do it, believes AJ McCarron will end the drought.
  • After a breakout performance in the spring game, Arkansas running back Korliss Marshall has created a dilemna by adding yet another option in the Hogs’ backfield.
  • With better execution, Auburn offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee believes his team could’ve "named our score" in the BCS championship.
  • Running backs Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall are at the top of Georgia’s depth chart, but who is next in line?
  • Kentucky has yet to name a starting quarterback which means redshirt freshman Reese Phillips is still in the mix.
  • LSU quarterbacks Brandon Harris and Anthony Jennings both improved this spring, but neither one stands out yet.
  • Missouri coach Gary Pinkel supports the SEC’s eight-game schedule and is looking forward to the potential rivalry with Arkansas that it sets up.
  • Texas A&M defensive end Gavin Stansbury was arrested on assault charges earlier this spring, but his lawyer said Thursday that it was ‘a horrible case of mistaken identity.’
We know a good idea when we see it. And with all apologies to our good friends at the Big Ten Blog, we’re going to steal one of theirs.

It’s time to plan your road trips.

Get your calendars out and your travel agents on the telephone. The football season is a few months away and you need to know where you’re going in the SEC from week to week.

This series, beginning today and then running every Monday for the next 13 weeks, will give you a rundown of the league’s action and we'll make our pick for the top one or two matchups.

So without further ado, let’s begin with Week 1 and a look at the schedule.

Saturday, Aug. 30
Ole Miss vs. Boise State (in Atlanta), Thursday, Aug. 28
Texas A&M at South Carolina -- Aug. 28
Temple at Vanderbilt -- Aug. 28
Alabama vs. West Virginia (in Atlanta)
Arkansas at Auburn
Idaho at Florida
Clemson at Georgia
UT Martin at Kentucky
LSU vs. Wisconsin (in Houston)
Southern Miss at Mississippi State
South Dakota State at Missouri
Utah State at Tennessee -- Sunday, Aug. 31

Alex Scarborough’s pick: Texas A&M at South Carolina

Welcome to the new SEC Network. And what a game it gets to kick things off.

Not only do we get to see the Head Ball Coach stalking the sideline for the Gamecocks once again, we get our first glimpse at Johnny Manziel’s heir apparent at quarterback -- whoever that may be. It might be unclear now who starts under center for the Aggies, but I’m giving coach Kevin Sumlin the benefit of the doubt. With promising receivers Ricky Seals-Jones and Speedy Noil, a stable of tailbacks led by Tra Carson and Trey Williams and a solid line that returns tackle Cedric Ogbuehi, the offense should be fine. The defense ... I’m not so sure. I was in Atlanta for the Chick-fil-A Bowl, and it wasn’t pretty.

South Carolina, on the other hand, will be without Jadeveon Clowney. But the defense under Lorenzo Ward should be fine. And, besides, the offense should be plenty of fun to watch. Dylan Thompson looks to be a capable replacement for Connor Shaw at quarterback, and he’ll have plenty of weapons to work with. Not only is Mike Davis back to 100 percent, he’s joined by an enviable group of running backs that include Brandon Wilds, Shon Carson and David Williams. Receivers Pharoh Cooper and Shaq Roland weren’t household names last season, but watch out, because their stars are on the rise.

So while it’s tempting to skirt the rules, double-dip and spend a few days in Atlanta for Ole Miss-Boise State and Alabama-West Virginia, I’ll stick to the script and hope to land in Columbia for the SEC’s season opening game.

Edward Aschoff's pick: LSU vs. Wisconsin (in Houston)

While I like your decision to go with the SEC opener, I have to shift gears and look at one of the three neutral-site games that features an SEC team taking on another member of the Power 5. The two games in Atlanta should be very fun to watch, but I’m going with LSU vs. Wisconsin down in Houston. These are the kinds of games I hope we will see more of starting in 2016, and this one has a lot of intrigue in the Lone Star State.

For starters, we really don’t know a ton about this LSU team. Are the Tigers rebuilding or reloading after another mass exodus from Baton Rouge? Who is going to be the starting quarterback? Will Terrence Magee hold things down at running back, or will we see more of newcomer Leonard Fournette? And what will be the identity of this new-look LSU defense?

The possibilities really are endless for the Tigers, but there are also plenty of questions for the Badgers as well. There’s yet another quarterback battle in Madison, but running back Melvin Gordon is still around, so you know the Tigers defense will be keying on him. Watching him go toe-to-toe with LSU’s fast and athletic defense should make plenty of people go, “Wow!”

I will say that while we are still unsure what this LSU team will look like this fall, we all know that Les Miles always has his guys ready to play in Week 1 in these kinds of games. Miles is 3-0 at LSU in season-opening, neutral-site games against power-conference opponents. The atmosphere won’t unnerve them, and neither will be the sight of Wisconsin’s jerseys.

With all the uncertainty surrounding both teams, I think we are in for a great punch-you-in-the-mouth opener to the 2014 season.


Drive Through: Stock Up - Texas A&M
The most eye-popping performance in week 1 went to Texas A&M's dominating win over South Carolina leaving the Aggies' stock up.