Texas A&M Aggies: Nico Johnson

SEC's DLs, LBs strong at combine

February, 21, 2013
2/21/13
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Several of RecruitingNation's SEC sites will look this week at the players headed to the NFL combine, which begins Friday in Indianapolis, and other predraft camps. Today: Defensive linemen and linebackers.

Texas A&M Aggies


Texas A&M's defense was a question mark coming into the 2012 season, but those questions were answered definitively as the Aggies became a solid defensive squad, thanks in large part to three players who will be participating in the combine:
  • DE Damontre Moore (Position rank: No. 4)
    Strengths: Explosiveness and production. Moore was a handful for opposing offensive tackles this year because of his quickness and explosiveness as a pass-rusher. He has good speed for his size and position; that could be seen against Mississippi State when he chased down receiver Chris Smith from behind on a 42-yard completion. He was near the top nationally in sacks and tackles for loss.
    Weaknesses: He can be too aggressive in his pursuit occasionally, although he has good instincts. A year ago, inconsistency might have been a concern and there also might have been character questions because of an arrest for marijuana possession before his sophomore season, but neither appear to be issues now. He seems to have matured and has become a consistent, day-in and day-out player under Kevin Sumlin.
    Comparison: Todd McShay compared Moore to Atlanta defensive end John Abraham. They have similar frames (both are 6-4, Abraham is about 15 pounds heavier than Moore's 248), and both are quick and fit well as 4-3 defensive ends.
  • OLB Sean Porter (Position rank: No. 12)
    Strengths: He's durable, reliable and became a leader for the Aggies. Showed good speed when serving as a pass-rusher in 2011. He is quick and can close quickly. Good instincts, versatile talent.
    Weaknesses: Doesn't excel in coverage, though he has showed improvement in that area. Could be a more physical player and more consistent overall.
    Comparison: Lance Briggs. About the same height as Porter, though a little bigger in weight, Briggs has good range and is a playmaker. It might be too much to say Porter will be at the level of Briggs (seven-time Pro Bowl player), but he should fit in nicely as a versatile starting weakside linebacker for someone.
  • LB Jonathan Stewart (Position rank: No. 16)
    Strengths: Smart player with good size for his position. Shows good instincts as he's often around the ball. Was one of the leaders on A&M's defense this year.
    Weaknesses: Not a dominant playmaking presence. Has speed but not tremendously explosive.
    Comparison: Kirk Morrison. Stewart should be a solid, though not flashy, linebacker in a 4-3 scheme which is what Morrison has been throughout his career with Oakland and Buffalo. Both are of similar size and frame.
-- Sam Khan Jr., GigEmNation

Florida Gators


The heart of the Gators’ 2012 defense will participate in the combine today. DT Sharrif Floyd, whose stock is rising rapidly as he is projected to be taken as high as No. 3, had a fantastic season and anchored UF’s front. He dominated Florida State’s front, and his mixture of size, strength and quickness has scouts drooling. ILB Jon Bostic started every game the past two seasons and was UF’s leader on defense. Nobody was more dependable than Bostic. OLB Jelani Jenkins was limited in 2012 because of a broken finger, a strained hamstring and a broken foot, but when healthy he’s a solid player. OLB Lerentee McCray was forced into action at the buck position (hybrid end/linebacker) because of the injury to Ronald Powell. He didn’t produce big numbers but was a high-effort, high-motor guy.

(Read full post)

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)
There won’t be any shortage of outstanding linebackers in the SEC this season, and a few of the teams are absolutely loaded.

In this era of hybrid roles, sometimes it’s difficult to distinguish whether somebody is a defensive end or an outside linebacker. The same goes for that outside linebacker/safety position we’re seeing so much of these days.

[+] EnlargeNico Johnson
Kelly Lambert/US PresswireSenior Nico Johnson will lead a strong group of linebackers at Alabama this season.
Here’s a look at how we would rank the linebacker units in the SEC heading into the 2012 season. It’s clearly a position of strength, which means even those teams ranking in the bottom half of the league are plenty stout:

1. Georgia: It starts with senior outside linebacker Jarvis Jones, who led the SEC in sacks (13.5) and tackles for loss (19.5) last season. Junior Alec Ogletree is just as disruptive on the inside, and the Bulldogs have quality depth inside with seniors Michael Gilliard and Christian Robinson. Senior Cornelius Washington could end up playing some at both end and outside linebacker.

2. Alabama: Dont’a Hightower and Courtney Upshaw are both gone, but senior Nico Johnson and junior C.J. Mosley return as two of the top linebackers in the SEC. Mosley might be the best coverage linebacker in the league. The Crimson Tide have also recruited like mad, and younger players such as sophomore Jack linebacker Adrian Hubbard are ready to make their move.

3. Florida: Senior Jon Bostic and junior Jelani Jenkins are back to form the nucleus of a Florida defense that should again be one of the top units in the league. They racked up a combined 169 tackles last season. Senior Lerentee McCray missed time with a shoulder injury last season. With Ronald Powell recovering from an ACL tear, McCray factors in at the hybrid Buck position on the outside.

4. Texas A&M: The Aggies are moving to a 4-3 defense this season under new coordinator Mark Snyder. The star of the group is senior Sean Porter, who had 17 tackles for loss, including 9.5 sacks, last season. He’ll have plenty of support with leading tackler Jonathan Stewart returning for his senior season, not to mention senior Steven Jenkins, who was the star of the spring.

5. South Carolina: The Gamecocks are deep and experienced. Five seniors return, including four of the top 10 tacklers on the team last season. DeVonte Holloman plays the hybrid Spur position and is poised for his most productive season yet. Shaq Wilson is back at middle linebacker, while Reginald Bowens, Damario Jeffery and Quin Smith are three more seniors who’ve played a lot of football.

6. Tennessee: The Vols boasted some of the best young talent at linebacker in the league last season with A.J. Johnson and Curt Maggitt, both of whom were named Freshman All-SEC. With the Vols moving to a base 3-4 this season, Maggitt’s a guy who can play a couple of different roles. The Vols will also get back senior Herman Lathers, who missed all of last season with a fractured ankle.

7. Missouri: Three proven starters return at linebacker for the Tigers, including seniors Zaviar Gooden and Will Ebner. The 6-2, 230-pound Gooden has the size-speed combination to be an All-SEC player. Ebner just needs to stay healthy. He’s been beset by injuries the last two seasons. Junior Andrew Wilson led the team with 98 tackles last season. After filling in for Ebner in the middle, Wilson will move to strong side this season.

8. LSU: Some of the best news for the Tigers this spring was the way junior Kevin Minter played in the middle. As a second-year starter in 2012, he’s primed to take a big step. Defensive coordinator John Chavis also liked what he saw out of junior Tahj Jones. There won’t be much experience and some younger guys will have to come through, but talent shouldn’t be a problem.

9. Arkansas: The big move for the Hogs this spring was senior Tenarius Wright shifting from end to middle linebacker. It’s imperative that Arkansas holds up better against the inside run, and Wright has been a playmaker throughout his career. Senior Alonzo Highsmith had a big debut season for the Hogs after coming over from junior college. He led the team with 12.5 tackles for loss in 2011, but missed the spring with a torn pectoral muscle.

10. Mississippi State: The Bulldogs probably deserve to be ranked a little higher, but such is life in the SEC. Senior Cameron Lawrence returns after finishing third in the league last season with 123 tackles. Establishing a presence in the middle will be key. Redshirt freshman Benardrick McKinney and sophomore Ferlando Bohanna both have a ton of talent. They just don’t have much experience.

11. Ole Miss: It would be huge for the Rebels if they can get junior D.T. Shackelford back this fall. He’s trying to make it back from two ACL surgeries. He’s a terrific leader and can play any of the linebacker spots. Junior Mike Marry is back after leading the team with 81 tackles last season. Serderius Bryant also returns after earning Freshman All-SEC honors a year ago.

12. Auburn: Senior Daren Bates might be undersized at 205 pounds, but he was a rock for Auburn’s defense last season at weak side linebacker. He’s going to need some help in 2012 if the Tigers are going to improve on that side of the ball. Jake Holland battled injuries last season in the middle and should be more consistent as a junior. The guy to watch is redshirt freshman Kris Frost, who’s freakishly athletic.

13. Vanderbilt: The unquestioned leader of the Commodores’ defense, middle linebacker Chris Marve, is gone. Junior Chase Garnham will move into Marve’s spot in the middle after showing a ton of promise at outside linebacker in 2011. Senior Archibald Barnes is also back after finishing fourth on the team in tackles last season, and the staff is excited about getting freshmen Darreon Herring and Jake Sealand on the field.

14. Kentucky: The Wildcats were gutted at linebacker. Gone are Danny Trevathan, who led the SEC in tackles the last two seasons, and Winston Guy, who was right behind Trevathan last season in his hybrid safety/linebacker role. Ridge Wilson was also dismissed from the team following his arrest. Junior Avery Williamson is the only returnee with any real experience, and the Wildcats will need several younger players to come through.
The SEC has a nation-leading 19 players on the 2012 preseason watch list for the Bronko Nagurski Trophy, which is awarded annually to the nation's best defensive player. Alabama leads the SEC with five players on the list, while LSU is second with four.

Here are all 19 SEC players on the Nagurski Trophy list:
For the complete Nagurski Trophy watch list, go here.

The SEC also leads the country with 19 players on the 2012 preseason watch list for the Outland Trophy, which is presented annually to the nation's top interior lineman. Alabama leads the SEC with four players on the list, including reigning Outland Trophy winner Barrett Jones.

Here are all 19 SEC players on the Outland Trophy watch list:
For the full Outland Trophy watch list, go here.

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