Texas A&M Aggies: Deion Belue

SEC helmet stickers: Week 5

September, 29, 2013
9/29/13
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Week 5 in the SEC provided what could have been the game of the year between Georgia and LSU. The nation’s No. 1 team played up to its ranking, and there were plenty of impressive performances across the league. It’s time to hand out the helmet stickers.

Aaron Murray, QB Georgia: It wasn’t long ago when Murray was labeled the quarterback who couldn’t win the big game. It’s time to throw that away. The senior finished 20-of-34 for 298 yards and five total touchdowns in Georgia’s biggest game of the year. He has always been productive -- he could soon become the SEC’s most productive quarterback of all time -- but add the clutch factor and there’s no reason not to think he’s a top contender for the Heisman this year. The Bulldogs control their own destiny in the SEC East, and Murray and company would love nothing more than a chance to avenge last year’s loss to Alabama in the conference championship. They have to get through Florida first.

Zach Mettenberger, QB LSU: It doesn’t matter how well somebody plays, there has to be a winner and there has to be a loser. Unfortunately for Mettenberger, he finished on the losing side Saturday, but the former Georgia quarterback played admirably against his former team. He finished 23-of-37 for 372 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions. Down the stretch, he made clutch throw after clutch throw to keep the Tigers in the game. LSU wide receivers Odell Beckham and Jarvis Landry had close to 300 yards receiving between them, but it starts with Mettenberger. He had a terrific homecoming but came up just short.

The Alabama secondary: Before the game, Ole Miss quarterback Bo Wallace said he thought they could score on anybody. Evidently not Alabama. The No. 1 team in the nation shut out the Rebels, 25-0. Wallace singled out the Crimson Tide cornerbacks, saying they weren’t exactly first-rounders, but Deion Belue and Eddie Jackson stepped up on Saturday. Jackson, a true freshman, was especially impressive locking up Wallace’s favorite target Donte Moncrief for most of the game. He also came down with the Tide’s lone interception. As a whole, the UA secondary held Ole Miss to just 159 yards through the air.

Mike Davis, RB South Carolina: At halftime, it didn’t look good for South Carolina. The Gamecocks trailed Central Florida, 10-0, and quarterback Connor Shaw was lost for the game with a shoulder injury. But Davis didn’t care. He put his team on his back and carried it to victory. It started with a 53-yard touchdown run on the opening drive of the third quarter, the first points of the game for the Gamecocks. He scored twice more in the fourth quarter to extend the lead and put the game away. The sophomore back finished with 26 carries for 167 yards and three touchdowns as South Carolina survived a difficult road test.

The Texas A&M offensive line: Johnny Manziel gets most of the credit for Texas A&M’s high-powered offense, but it was the offensive line that absolutely dominated Arkansas up front on Saturday. The Aggies rushed for 262 yards against the Razorbacks, averaging six yards per carry. No one player reached 100 yards rushing, but Trey Williams and Tra Carson played well down the stretch, and starting running back Ben Malena scored twice. Manziel still finished with 261 yards and two touchdowns through the air and another 59 yards on the ground, but it all started with the offensive line.

What to watch in the SEC: Week 5

September, 26, 2013
9/26/13
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Showcasing two big showdowns between ranked conference teams -- LSU at Georgia and Ole Miss at Alabama -- this looks like a more promising weekend of SEC football than the one that preceded it. Let's take a look at 10 things to watch around the league this Saturday:

1. Another top-10 matchup for Georgia: A common criticism leading into last season's SEC championship game was that Georgia hadn't played anybody. Well the schedule has certainly toughened up since then. Starting with that game against then-No. 2 (and eventual BCS champion) Alabama, the Bulldogs have faced No. 2, No. 16 (Nebraska), No. 8 (Clemson), No. 6 (South Carolina) and now-No. 6 LSU in their last six games. The Bulldogs are 2-2 in those games heading into Saturday's key conference showdown at Sanford Stadium -- LSU's first game this season in an opponent's stadium.

2. Can Ole Miss keep its mojo alive?: Resurgent Ole Miss already has a couple of impressive wins on its resume, winning at Vanderbilt in the closing minutes and running away from Texas in the fourth quarter in Austin. Good luck this weekend, though, Rebels. No. 1 Alabama -- which will host No. 21 Ole Miss on Saturday evening -- is in a far different class than the aforementioned opponents. Ole Miss has won in Tuscaloosa only once (1988), and that doesn't figure to change this weekend, even if Alabama's offense has underwhelmed lately.

[+] EnlargeTyler Murphy
AP Photo/Phil SandlinCan Tyler Murphy keep Florida moving in the right direction?
3. All eyes on Murphy: When Florida quarterback Jeff Driskel went down with a season-ending injury last week, little-used backup Tyler Murphy got his first chance to shine. Murphy took advantage of that opportunity, completing 8 of 14 passes for 134 yards and a touchdown and rushing for another score in a 31-17 win over Tennessee. Now he's THE guy after watching an assortment of Gators take snaps ahead of him over the last three years. He'll be taking his shots against a Kentucky program that hasn't beaten Florida in 26 years -- the second-longest active series winning streak in the country.

4. Clash of styles in Fayetteville: The offensive approaches in Saturday's Texas A&M-Arkansas game could hardly be more different. On one hand, you have the wide-open Kevin Sumlin offense at A&M, with triggerman Johnny Manziel helping the Aggies post 602.2 yards and 50.2 points per game -- both SEC highs. Arkansas has run the ball effectively (246.0 ypg, third in the SEC), but that's about it. If the Razorbacks have any hope of hanging with A&M, they'd better hope that their impressive running back tandem of Alex Collins (SEC-high 120.2 ypg) and Jonathan Williams (second at 104.5) can extend clock-eating drives that keep Manziel and company on the sideline.

5. Mettenberger's homecoming: One of the most popular storylines this week concerns LSU quarterback Zach Mettenberger returning home to Georgia, where he competed with Aaron Murray for the starting job in 2010 before being dismissed from the team after an offseason arrest. Mettenberger's mother is a longtime employee in Georgia's football office, and Bulldogs coach Mark Richt gave her the week off to avoid the obvious conflict of interest that accompanies this game week. Players from both sides have answered plenty of Mettenberger-related questions, and the Tigers' quarterback seemed to be getting chapped by the subject by midweek. LSU needs him to play a composed game on Saturday, so this is a distraction that the Tigers didn't need.

6. Can South Carolina finish?: Steve Spurrier's Gamecocks built a 28-0 lead in their last game against Vanderbilt, only to see the Commodores rally to within 35-25 early in the fourth quarter. The Gamecocks protected that lead the rest of the way, but it was hardly a positive sign when they had scored only six points in the fourth quarter the week before in a 41-30 loss to Georgia after it was 24-all at halftime. Playing at Central Florida (3-0), which beat Penn State in its last game, South Carolina might not be able to afford another sloppy second half.

7. Alabama's cornerback competition: Nick Saban's defense rotated five cornerbacks last week against Colorado State with two veterans out of the lineup. Deion Belue should be back in the lineup against Ole Miss, but the Rebels' up-tempo offense is much more capable of exploiting defensive vulnerabilities than the Tide's previous opponent. Alabama needs to get its secondary concerns sorted out quickly or the Rebels could make things interesting on Saturday.

8. Mizzou angling for 4-0: Saturday's game against Arkansas State marks the fourth straight nonconference matchup for the Tigers. That means it's all SEC games from here on out, and there are some tough ones on the list. Mizzou has posted some nice yardage totals so far in wins against Murray State, Toledo and Indiana. With a challenging October schedule ahead (at Vanderbilt, at Georgia, Florida, South Carolina), quarterback James Franklin and company need to keep the offensive momentum going.

9. Get-well game in Knoxville: Following two straight horrendous showings -- against Oregon and Florida -- things aren't looking too pretty for first-year Tennessee coach Butch Jones. The Volunteers desperately need a win against South Alabama on Saturday or it could get really ugly in October with Georgia, South Carolina and Alabama on the schedule. The first step for Jones is settling on a quarterback, with Justin Worley apparently stepping back into the starting job he lost last week before replacement Nathan Peterman injured his hand against Florida.

10. Will the real Commodores please stand up?: Coach James Franklin raised expectations in Nashville with a nine-win season last year, but Vanderbilt hasn't even looked like a bowl team in the wake of a sexual assault case that rocked the team and campus. Vandy is 2-2 overall and 0-2 in league play coming off last week's underwhelming 24-7 win at UMass. The Commodores reached the 2012 postseason based largely on wins against second-tier foes like Saturday's opponent, UAB. If they want to play in another bowl this season, they need to start getting their act together against the Blazers.

The SEC's impact transfers in 2012

July, 17, 2012
7/17/12
12:30
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Transfers can often times be the great equalizer, both junior college transfers and major college transfers.

It’s safe to say that Cam Newton made a difference on Auburn’s 2010 national championship team. And for that matter, so did Nick Fairley. Both were junior college transfers.

A year ago, cornerback DeQuan Menzie was a stabilizing force in Alabama’s defensive secondary and one of the Crimson Tide’s most dependable players on their 2011 national championship team. Menzie was also a junior college transfer.

Terrence Cody, yet another junior college transfer, was a major part of Alabama’s 2009 national championship defense.

Who will be those impact transfers in 2012 that make a difference? Here are 10 to watch in the SEC. They’re listed alphabetically:

[+] Enlarge Jay Prosch
AP Photo/Todd J. Van EmstIllinois transfer Jay Prosch will be eligible to take the field for Auburn this season.
Denico Autry, DE, Mississippi State: One of the most heralded junior college prospects in the country, the 6-foot-5, 255-pound Autry made quite an impression this spring. He’s an explosive pass-rusher the Bulldogs hope will give them the edge pressure they lacked last season.

Deion Belue, CB, Alabama: It didn’t take Belue long to make his presence felt this spring. He took an interception back 97 yards for a touchdown in the Crimson Tide’s first scrimmage. Belue’s a quick learner and one of the favorites to start at the other cornerback opposite Dee Milliner.

Pierce Burton, OT, Ole Miss: He started his career at San Jose State and then transferred to City College of San Francisco. It looked like Burton would continue his career at Florida, but Hugh Freeze was able to sway him to Ole Miss. Burton was good enough this spring that he’ll go into the season as the Rebels’ starting right tackle.

Austin Flynn, DE, Arkansas: The Hogs already needed some pass-rushing help at end with Jake Bequette departing. That need was only magnified after Tenarius Wright moved to linebacker this spring. The 6-foot-5, 265-pound Flynn was a big get out of junior college and showed the kind of strength and power this spring that could make him an immediate starter.

Damien Jacobs, DT, Florida: Originally committed to Tennessee out of East Mississippi Community College, Jacobs changed his mind and signed with the Gators. Florida coach Will Muschamp liked what he saw this spring and thinks the 6-foot-3, 310-pound Jacobs will be a big part of the rotation at tackle this fall.

Cordarrelle Patterson, WR, Tennessee: The expectations get loftier by the day for Patterson, who joins an already talented Tennessee receiving corps. The 6-foot-4 Patterson recently weighed in at 225 pounds and has track speed. He wasn’t on campus in time to go through spring practice, but scored 24 touchdowns last season at Hutchinson (Kan.) Community College.

Jay Prosch, FB, Auburn: The Tigers were looking for that enforcer in their running game, and they think they’ve found him in the 253-pound Prosch. A transfer from Illinois, Prosch was granted a waiver by the NCAA and will be eligible to play this season. He’s a battering ram as a blocker and also an excellent special teams player.

Darrington Sentimore, DE, Tennessee: Had Sentimore not landed in the doghouse at Alabama toward the end of the 2010 season, he’d probably be starting for the Crimson Tide this fall. Instead, he’s expected to bolster the Vols’ defensive line as they move to a 3-4 scheme. Sentimore reunites with Sal Sunseri after spending last season at Gulf Coast (Miss.) Community College.

Bo Wallace, QB, Ole Miss: Wallace was the national junior college player of the year last season and set all sorts of junior college records, including 53 touchdown passes at East Mississippi Community College. He will continue his battle with Barry Brunetti for the Rebels’ starting quarterback job this preseason.

Brandon Williams, RB, Texas A&M: The Aggies were already excited about getting Williams, who transferred from Oklahoma. But then he went out and put on a show this spring, further whetting everyone’s appetite in College Station. The only question is whether the 6-foot, 192-pound Williams will be eligible this fall. The Aggies expect an answer from the NCAA in August.

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