Texas A&M Aggies: Marcus Lattimore

Week 2 in the SEC

September, 3, 2012
9/03/12
12:07
PM ET
Here's a quick primer for Week 2 in the SEC:

SATURDAY

Auburn (0-1) at Mississippi State (1-0), Noon ET, ESPN: Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen is looking for his first win against a West opponent not named Ole Miss. Auburn is looking to rebound after its rush defense was shredded against Clemson. It won't get easier for that defense Saturday. This game set the tone for both teams last year and probably will again.

East Carolina (1-0) at No. 9 South Carolina (1-0), 12:21 p.m. ET, SEC Network: Quarterback Connor Shaw's shoulder will be monitored all week, and the receivers have got to step up this week. The good news is that Marcus Lattimore shook off the rust early in his return against Vanderbilt and is back to his bullish ways. The Gamecocks know all too well that they can't sleep on the Pirates, so the focus should be good this week.

No. 23 Florida (1-0) at Texas A&M (0-0), 3:30 p.m. ET, ESPN: The Gators have named Jeff Driskel the starting quarterback and that's a step in the right direction. This offense struggled mightily in the opener, but now those players know who their quarterback is. That can only help with chemistry and timing. The Aggies are opening the season with Florida after their original opener was postponed. Florida's defense could provide first-time starting quarterback Johnny Manziel with a bunch of problems, but this team will be itching to get on the field. Expect an electric environment in College Station.

(Read full post)


Tyrann Mathieu is receiving a lot of schools, as he plans his college football future.

About 20 schools are interested in the All-American defensive back and have contacted LSU to get permission to speak with Mathieu. He has already visited McNeese State and Nicholls State officials said on Wednesday that they were granted permission to speak with Mathieu, but haven't heard from him.

What we still don't know is if Mathieu, who was dismissed from LSU for reportedly failing yet another drug test, will return to LSU in 2013. Reports surfaced this week that he was interested in sitting out the 2012 season, paying his own way at LSU and returning to the Tigers' football team in 2013. However, the school won't comment either way on it.

Sumlin names starting QB

Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin announced on Wednesday that redshirt freshman quarterback Johnny Manziel will start for the Aggies in the season opener against Louisiana Tech.

For a while it seemed as though redshirt sophomore Jameill Showers, who is the only quarterback with any game experience, would eventually win the starting spot, but Manziel made strides during fall camp and passed Showers after a solid showing during Texas A&M's scrimmage Saturday.

"Johnny has performed the best at this stage and we will proceed until the season opener with him getting the first-team reps," Sumlin said. "My policy is simple really; the best player plays. Competition is a great thing and we need more competition at all of our positions. All of our quarterbacks have competed well and I expect them to continue to push Johnny."

Dyer not playing football this fall

It now appears that former Auburn running back Michael Dyer won't be playing football this fall.

Dyer's uncle, Andre Dyer, told ESPN's Joe Schad that his nephew intends to enroll in classes somewhere, but won't play football this fall. Instead, he'll concentrate on returning in 2013.

Dyer's drama began with his indefinite suspension at Auburn for violating unspecified team rules before last season's Chick-fil-A Bowl and continued with him transferring to and later leaving Arkansas State. Dyer, who followed former Auburn offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn, was dismissed from Arkansas State for violating team rules.

Andre Dyer said the goal is now to "get Michael's head in the right place, work on building character and addressing issues before turning back to look at any interest from major schools."

That's certainly a good thing for Dyer, who eclipsed the 1,000-yard rushing mark as both a freshman and sophomore at Auburn. Football should be put on the back burner, as Dyer tries to get his life in order.

Mississippi State's stadium expanding

Mississippi State is about to begin its $75 million expansion of Davis Wade Stadium. It's expected to be finished before the 2014 season.

More than 6,000 seats will be added to bring the stadium's capacity to 61,337. There are also plans for a second high-definition video board, premium seating, restrooms and concession stands.

Mississippi State's new stadium capacity will rank just 12th out of 14 SEC teams, but expansion was needed, as the Bulldogs have sold out 16 straight games and have a waiting list for season tickets.

Lattimore strong during scrimmage

While he didn't play a lot in South Carolina's second scrimmage, running back Marcus Lattimore looked strong as he continues to return from his season-ending knee injury in 2011.

Lattimore only played during the Gamecocks' first two offensive series, but rushed for 23 yards on five carries. Two of his runs went for first downs, and he also caught a pass for 5 yards. He didn't generate a lot of yards, but what pleased coaches was he was able to break several tackles during his runs.

"Marcus made a few runs," coach Steve Spurrier said. "There wasn't a lot of blocking, wasn't a whole lot of holes in there, but he's been going against the first defense."

Even with South Carolina's quarterbacks struggling at times during the scrimmage, freshman tight end Jerell Adams had an impressive outing, as he led all receivers by catching four passes for 83 yards and a touchdown.

For more on South Carolina's scrimmage, check out the Gamecocks' official website.

Gurley solid again in Bulldogs' scrimmage

Freshman running back Todd Gurley continued to impress during fall camp, as he led all of Georgia's running backs with 87 yards and two touchdowns on seven carries in the Bulldogs' second scrimmage. During Georgia's two scrimmages, Gurley has combined for 167 yards and two scores on 15 carries.

Fellow freshman Keith Marshall added 62 yards on five carries, while Richard Samuel and Ken Malcome rushed for 40 and 35 yards, respectively.

Coach Mark Richt wasn't too pleased with parts of the scrimmage, as turnovers became an epidemic.

"I saw some good things," Richt said. "Some good things happened, but I saw a lot of bad things. I saw three pics...bad interceptions, although Corey Moore made a great play on one. Every time the quarterback got touched, they fumbled. We weren't tackling the quarterback, but you're not supposed to fumble every time you're touched."

For more on Georgia's scrimmage, check out the school's official website.
HOOVER, Ala. -- The 2012 SEC media days All-SEC team was announced Thursday and LSU led the conference with the most first-team selections with seven. The media has voted for a preseason All-SEC team and predicted the order in which each team would finish since 1992.

It should be noted that the media has only picked the correct SEC champion four times since 1992. Those correct picks were Florida in 1994 and 1995, LSU in 2007 and Florida in 2008.

Here are some notes from the league on the All-SEC team:
    [+] EnlargeMarcus Lattimore
    Daniel Shirey/US PresswireSEC members are expecting big things this season for South Carolina's Marcus Lattimore.

  • The 222 voters is an all-time high for SEC media days. The previous high was 177 voters in 2010.
  • South Carolina running back Marcus Lattimore was the leading vote-getter this season with 201 of 222 votes. He is the fourth running back in the past six years to be the highest vote-getter (2007 – Darren McFadden, Arkansas; 2008 – Knowshon Moreno, Georgia and Percy Harvin, Florida; 2009 – Tim Tebow and Brandon Spikes, Florida; 2010 – Mark Ingram, Alabama; 2011 – Alshon Jeffery, South Carolina).
  • Lattimore (2012) and Jeffery (2011) have been the leading vote-getters the last two seasons.
  • Alabama offensive lineman Barrett Jones is a three-time member of the SEC media days first team
  • South Carolina has had a sophomore make the media days first team for the third straight season – Jadeveon Clowney, South Carolina, DE (2012); Marcus Lattimore, South Carolina, RB (2011); Stephon Gilmore, South Carolina, DB (2010).
  • Since 2000, Arkansas’ Darren McFadden is the only unanimous selection to the SEC media days All-SEC team, collecting all 80 votes.
  • LSU had the most first-team selections this season with 7. Since 1992, the most players on a first-team were nine by Alabama in 2011 and eight by Alabama (2010) and Florida (2009).
  • LSU leads with the most overall selections this season with 13. The total is the second highest ever, behind Alabama’s 16 last season. Prior to last season, Alabama (2010) and Florida (2009) had the most overall selections.
  • LSU is predicted to win the SEC championship by the media for the first time since 2007. It is the second time since 1992 that LSU has been predicted to win the league title. LSU did win the SEC title in 2007 and went on to the BCS title.

Here is what the complete first team looks like:

OFFENSE

QB: Tyler Wilson, Arkansas (127)
RB: Marcus Lattimore, South Carolina (201)
RB: Knile Davis, Arkansas (118)
WR: Da'Rick Rogers, Tennessee (106)
WR: Cobi Hamilton, Arkansas (67)
TE: Philip Lutzenkirchen, Auburn (158)
OL: D.J. Fluker, Alabama (171)
OL: Alex Hurst, LSU (125)
OL: Chance Warmack, Alabama (124)
OL: Luke Joeckel, Texas A&M (87)
C: Barrett Jones, Alabama (183)

DEFENSE

DL: Jadeveon Clowney, South Carolina (140)
DL: Barkevious Mingo, LSU (126)
DL: Sam Montgomery, LSU (124)
DL: Corey Lemonier, Auburn (102)
ILB: Nico Johnson (84)
OLB: Jarvis Jones, Georgia (178)
OLB: Sean Porter, Texas A&M (81)
DB: Tyrann Mathieu, LSU (184)
DB: Eric Reid, LSU (142)
DB: Robert Lester, Alabama (131)
DB: Bacarri Rambo, Georgia (126)

SPECIAL TEAMS

K: Caleb Sturgis, Florida (127)
P: Brad Wing, LSU (153)
RS: Tyrann Mathieu, LSU (159)
AP: Dennis Johnson, Arkansas (86)

For a look at all three teams check out the SEC's official website.

Here's the predicted order of finish for the SEC champion and the votes:

1. LSU - 129
2. Alabama - 65
3. Georgia - 14
4. South Carolina - 6
5. Arkansas - 4
6. Auburn - 2
7. Florida - 1
8. Ole Miss - 1

Predicted divisional order:

EAST

1. Georgia (132)
2. South Carolina (72)
3. Florida (12)
4. Missouri (2)
5. Tennessee (4)
6. Vanderbilt
7. Kentucky

WEST

1. LSU (139)
2. Alabama (72)
3. Arkansas (6)
4. Auburn (4)
5. Texas A&M
6. Mississippi State
7. Ole Miss (1)

The SEC's preseason All-Star teams

July, 17, 2012
7/17/12
2:30
PM ET
Some of my best childhood memories go back to the Major League All-Star Game and sitting around and watching the Midsummer Classic with family members.

That’s what we did last week at our house.

So in keeping with the All-Star theme, we’ll select a preseason SEC All-Star team with the East going up against the West.

Who would win?

EAST

Offense
Defense
Special Teams
WEST

Offense
Defense
Special Teams

It's almost time for hundreds of media folk to pile into a swanky ballroom and kick off another year of SEC media days.

The festivities begin Tuesday at the Wynfrey Hotel in Hoover, Ala., and last until Thursday afternoon. The event serves as the unofficial kickoff to SEC football season.

So what should we be on the lookout for this year?

Well, the biggest news is all the star power that won't be making the trip. Two of the league's top rushers -- Marcus Lattimore and Christine Michael -- won't be in town. Yes, they are both coming off season-ending injuries, but so is Arkansas' Knile Davis, and he'll be in attendance.

One of the league's best, Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray won't be in Hoover, either. Nor will Bulldogs wide receiver Malcolm Mitchell.

Some other big names not on the list include Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron, LSU cornerback Tyrann Mathieu, South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney and Missouri quarterback James Franklin.

There are a lot of interesting storylines revolving around all those players, who serve as faces for their respective programs, and it's disappointing that they won't be around this week.

However, some quality names are on this year's roster, including Georgia linebacker Jarvis Jones, Alabama offensive lineman Barrett Jones, Arkansas quarterback Tyler Wilson, Texas A&M linebacker Sean Porter, Tennessee quarterback Tyler Bray and South Carolina quarterback Connor Shaw.

I'm sure they'll all have plenty to say and should keep us all entertained.

Here are some other things to keep an eye on this week:
  • If you're coming into town, make sure you bring your protective gear for Thursday. That's when Alabama's up, and you'd better believe the lobby will be jam-packed with Tide fans. They come out in full force and expect things to be even tighter this year after that championship.
  • Arkansas players will have to answer a lot of questions surrounding their former coach, Bobby Petrino. How much of a distraction will his exit be this fall?
  • Also, what will new Arkansas coach John L. Smith say? He sure knows how to make a news conference exciting, so don't expect anything to be different in front of all those SEC scribes.
  • One coach not afraid to put on a show while at the podium is South Carolina's Steve Spurrier. The Head Ball Coach has been chirping this year, and he probably won't stop in Hoover.
  • Last year, there were a lot of questions about the quarterback talent in this league. This year, that isn't the case, as the league is as plentiful at the position as it has been in years.
  • Although only Davis will be in town, expect a lot of talk about three of the league's best running backs all coming off major, season-ending injuries.
  • Georgia has had an eventful offseason away from the field, and it's time to see how players and coach Mark Richt are feeling about all of the silly distractions. Also, what's in store for the Bulldogs' running game now that Isaiah Crowell is gone?
  • I wonder how many times Nick Saban and his players will be asked questions about comparisons to the 2010 team. You know how much Saban loves comparison talk. ...
  • Tennessee coach Derek Dooley should field a lot of questions about his job security this week. Regardless of how you feel about the time he's had and all the issues he's had to deal with, his seat is hotter than ever.
  • Texas A&M and Missouri are now officially members of the SEC. How will their players and coaches react to being surrounded by all those SEC writers? And how many more questions will they get about adjusting to their new conference?
  • LSU was on top of the college football world until last year's national championship. The Tigers bring back a boatload of talent, but can they finish things this year?
  • The good news for Auburn, South Carolina and Tennessee is their coaches won't have to deal with NCAA questions, unlike last year.
Earlier, we ranked all 14 SEC running back groups, so it's time to look at the league's top 10 rushers heading into the 2012 season. As usual, there are some pretty talented backs in the league, so narrowing it down to just 10 backs wasn't easy to say the least. But someone had to do it!

Past rankings:
Like all the other positions, we're looking at overall talent, game-changing ability and experience. We also looked at past performances and projections for 2012.

Here are our top 10 SEC running backs:

[+] EnlargeMarcus Lattimore
Daniel Shirey/US PresswireMarcus Lattimore is apparently ahead of schedule with his rehab after tearing his ACL last season.
1. Marcus Lattimore, Jr., South Carolina: He might be the nation's best all-around running back, and all indications are that he's ahead of schedule with his rehab after tearing his ACL halfway through last season. Before his injury, he led the SEC in rushing and has a tremendous combination of size, speed and strength that make him one of the toughest players to stop.

2. Knile Davis, Jr., Arkansas: Like Lattimore, Davis is coming off of a devastating injury from last year. He had yet another ankle injury that cost him all of his 2011 season, but it sounds like he's more than ready to return to the playing field. He's one of the most dynamic rushers in the country, and when he was healthy in 2010 he averaged 146.9 yards in the last seven games of the season.

3. Christine Michael, Sr., Texas A&M: He's another back coming off a season-ending injury. Before he tore his ACL last fall, Michael rushed for 899 yards and is a true workhorse. His punch-you-in-the-mouth, explosive, downhill running style will fit right in in the SEC. He should be good to go this fall, and if he's 100 percent he'll certainly challenge for the rushing title.

4. Zac Stacy, Sr., Vanderbilt: He was a real surprise in the SEC last season and returns as the league's top statistical rusher, with 1,193 yards from a year ago. He isn't the fastest back, but he's strong, works hard and has excellent vision. Last season, Stacy tied for the SEC lead with runs of 40 or more yards, and averaged 5.7 yards per carry against SEC defenses.

5. Eddie Lacy, Jr., Alabama: Lacy takes over for the very talented Trent Richardson, but he's no slouch. Lacy has shown pretty good explosion and strength when he's had the ball, averaging 7.1 yards per carry last season. Nagging injuries have slowed him in the past, but if he's healthy he'll make plenty of defenders miserable -- and sore -- this fall.

6. Spencer Ware, Jr., LSU: Ware was one of the top backs in the league during the first part of last season, but was never the same after his midseason suspension. Word is that he's very determined to redeem himself this fall. He's a true bruiser who can soften defenses, and has a knack for pushing through for an extra yard or three.

7. Michael Ford, Jr., LSU: He's considered the fastest of LSU's five-headed rushing monster and ended up leading the Tigers in rushing last season (756), after starting just three games. Ford might be LSU's best big-play threat at running back, but he's also not afraid to put his head down and knock someone over.

8. Onterio McCalebb, Sr., Auburn: McCalebb might not be the every-down back the Tigers need in replacing Michael Dyer, but he's one of the best home run threats in the league. He's at his best when he takes runs to the outside, and can be deadly in the passing game, too.

9. Dennis Johnson, Sr., Arkansas: After taking over for Davis last season, Johnson led the Hogs with 670 yards on just 106 carries. He might be known more for his kick return ability, but Johnson could probably start at running back for a few teams in the SEC. He has a solid blend of power and speed, but has to get over his fumbling issues.

10. Nick Griffin, So, Mississippi State: LaDarius Perkins might be the starter to open the season and has big-time speed, but Griffin is the complete package and is probably the closest thing the Bulldogs have on their roster to the departed Vick Ballard. The coaches are especially excited about his potential, and it would be no surprise if Griffin eventually takes the bulk of the carries for the Bulldogs this fall.
We asked the fans last week in our SportsNation poll to pick the player in the SEC who would bounce back the strongest this season from injury, and the winner was Texas A&M running back Christine Michael.

It was a good race among three outstanding running backs. With more than 12,000 votes cast, Michael collected 31 percent of the vote. South Carolina's Marcus Lattimore was second with 25 percent of the vote, while Arkansas' Knile Davis was third with 23 percent of the vote.

Tennessee receiver Justin Hunter was fourth with 17 percent of the vote, and Florida defensive tackle Dominique Easley was fifth with 4 percent.

For some, it might have been a surprise that Lattimore didn't win. He's been a first-team pick at running back on pretty much every preseason All-America team. But Michael was also on his way to a tremendous season a year ago before tearing his ACL against Oklahoma and missing the Aggies' final four games.

The 5-11, 213-pound Michael has terrific speed and great cutting ability and is never hesitant about taking on any defender. He rushed for 899 yards before his injury last season and averaged 6 yards per carry. He's averaged 5.4 yards per carry during his career, but has had each of his last two seasons cut short by injuries. Two years ago, it was a broken leg that sidelined him.

Michael, who will be a senior, was held out of contact in the spring, but insisted he could have played in a game if the Aggies were playing in one. If healthy, he has everything it takes to be a 1,200-yard rusher in this league. He just has to prove that he can make it through an entire season.

It remains to be seen how much he will be used as a receiver out of the backfield in Kevin Sumlin's new offense, and Michael could again end up splitting carries similar to the last few years with Cyrus Gray. The Aggies are still unsure if Oklahoma transfer Brandon Williams will be ruled eligible by the NCAA this season, and incoming freshman Trey Williams also has loads of talent.

Regardless of how it all shakes out, Michael is the kind of runner who can take over a game. He lit up Arkansas last season for 230 rushing yards and three touchdowns on 32 carries.

He'll be a treat for SEC fans to watch play. That is, unless you're cheering for the team trying to tackle him.

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