NCF Nation: Auburn Tigers

AUBURN, Ala. -- It's been a little over a week since Will Muschamp took over as Auburn's new defensive coordinator, and he's wasted no time settling in to his new job. Just hours after his introductory news conference, the former Florida coach was already on the phone with recruits, persuading them to join him on the Plains.

[+] EnlargeWill Muschamp
AP Photo/Brynn AndersonFormer Florida coach Will Muschamp has hit the ground running as Auburn's defensive coordinator.
Bowl practice began last week for the Tigers, and though Muschamp isn't running the defense just yet -- that's Charlie Harbison's job for now -- he was still out there taking it all in.

"It's been really good," Auburn coach Gus Malzahn said of Muschamp's presence. "He's just trying to get to know our players, evaluate our current guys and our players have responded extremely well."

The defensive players knew Muschamp's name well before he was hired, and when rumors started to spread he was coming to Auburn, they did their research. They watched videos of their new coach and saw the passion and intensity that has defined him over the years.

Now that Muschamp has arrived on campus, the first impression has been no different.

"Really high intensity guy," linebacker Kris Frost said. "It's been mostly sitting back and observing us right now. But seeing the videos and also just meeting him and talking to him, you can just tell he loves what he does. He's a perfectionist at it. It's about us doing all we can to please him, and we know that next year, it's going to be a really fun year for us."

The first week of practice was "nerve-wrecking" for Frost and a lot of the players who are basically auditioning for next season. They know Muschamp is watching, and the energy has been cranked up as a result. Players are flying to the ball, and the 55-44 loss to Alabama in the Iron Bowl seems like a distant memory.

The focus has turned to Wisconsin and more importantly, impressing their new coach.

"I've been through a coaching change before," cornerback Jonathan Jones said. "It's the same thing. You're starting fresh, so it's a good thing for everybody. Whereas some coaches might already have a certain opinion about you, you're able to change their perception. It's a great thing being able to start fresh."

Jones, who leads Auburn with six interceptions this season, is penciled in as the team's No. 1 cornerback heading into next season, but even he knows how important it is to make a good first impression on the new defensive coordinator.

Muschamp has declined interviews through the bowl game, so it's likely we won't know his thoughts on the defense until the spring. But based on the numbers and the second-half collapse, he'll have his hands full retooling this Auburn defense.

One thing he can look forward to is the return of defensive end Carl Lawson, who missed the entire season after tearing his ACL in spring practice.

Lawson returned to practice last week for the first time since the injury.

"It's great to see him out there in pads and a helmet," Malzahn said. "I know he's got a big smile on his face. He's doing what he can do, but it's really good to have his presence out there and his leadership.

"Anytime you come off a knee injury, it takes a little bit to get used to it and how it feels. One day it may be a little sore. I think it's very valuable he's able to do that now. Once he gets to spring, we'll turn him loose and we expect him to be back to normal."

The return of Lawson coupled with the presence of Muschamp has the players believing this defense can be one of the better defenses in the SEC next season. But first, they have to figure out a way to stop Heisman Trophy finalist Melvin Gordon in the Outback Bowl.

The new defensive coordinator will be watching.
Midterm junior college signing day winners are headlined by Ole Miss and Oklahoma, but they weren’t the only programs that improved Wednesday.

Early Offer: Hokies score super sleeper 

December, 16, 2014
Dec 16
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Once again, Frank Beamer has landed an under-recruited prospect with “unlimited potential.” Plus, how much progress has been made by the committee looking into whether or not there should be an early-signing period?


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Play that changed the SEC race

December, 16, 2014
Dec 16
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Getting through the SEC West Division this season showed the country a whole new kind of toughness. Congratulations, Alabama. What you did was incredibly impressive, and you deserve every bit of that No. 1 ranking and a spot in the inaugural College Football Playoff.

However, there's another team that had a chance to make a similar run, if not for a catastrophic play in a crucial SEC game. That would be the Ole Miss Rebels and the play was Laquon Treadwell's tragic goal-line injury on what began as a wonderful 19-yard catch-and-run.

What started as a magnificent play by Treadwell on third-and-3 from Auburn's 20-yard line with just 1:39 left ended with a horrific leg injury and fumble by Treadwell during an awkward tackle from Auburn linebacker Kris Frost just ahead of the end zone. Right before Treadwell's body helplessly collapsed into the end zone, Frost dragged him down, pinning his leg underneath, causing Treadwell to drop the ball. Auburn's Cassanova McKinzy then fell on the ball in the end zone.

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The play was originally ruled a touchdown, but after review, Auburn was awarded possession and eventually won 35-31.

With the loss, the Rebels lost their best player to a broken leg and were pushed to the fringe of the SEC and playoff races. They were officially eliminated after losing 30-0 three weeks later at Arkansas.

But if Treadwell isn't lost for the season and doesn't fumble, the Rebels might have beaten Auburn. And you could argue that equipping quarterback Bo Wallace with a healthy Treadwell gives the Rebels a big advantage against the Razorbacks. So if Ole Miss, which was fourth in the College Football Playoff rankings, wins that game, they are still right in the thick of the playoff hunt. Beat Arkansas, and the Rebels control their destiny in both the playoff and the SEC West race.

With a win over Alabama already, Ole Miss held the tiebreaker and only needed to beat Mississippi State at home to win the West and still be firmly alive in the playoff. And after watching the Rebels dismantle Mississippi State without Treadwell, it's hard to see them losing that final game.

But there's more: If Ole Miss and Alabama had won out, there's a chance that Alabama would have joined Ole Miss (eventual SEC champ) in the playoff. After all, they would have likely ended the regular season ranked No. 1 and 2.

Would Alabama have received the TCU treatment? Hard to say when it's A-L-A-B-A-M-A.

Instead, the loss kept everything in front of Alabama and left the Rebels on the outside of what could have been a special run for the program.
Now that Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota has strutted away with the Heisman Trophy in an utter landslide, it's time to look into the future to see who could be up for that bronze beauty next year.

What's that? We haven't gotten to bowl season? Santa hasn't even come to fill our stockings?

Pssssh! It's never too early for some prognostication that has nothing to do with the current season. And looking ahead to the Heisman is so much fun.

So who could be in the mix for a trip to Times Square next December? I think the SEC has a few candidates to keep an eye on. Too bad Todd Gurley isn't returning, because he would be at the top of this list. In fact, if he didn't deal with that NCAA suspension or lose his season to an ACL injury, Gurley might have won the Heisman over Mariota. But that's a story for another day.

Also, Heisman finalist Amari Cooper isn't on our list because he would be crazy not to bolt to the NFL.

Here's our very early list of possible SEC Heisman candidates in 2015:
  • Dak Prescott, QB, Mississippi State: This hinges on Prescott's NFL prospects. He is awaiting his draft grade, but if Prescott isn't projected to go in the first or second round, expect him to come back for his senior year. Prescott was an early Heisman front-runner in 2014, but his numbers fell in the final month of the season. Still, if he returns, he will be a favorite from the SEC after breaking 10 Mississippi State single-season records in 2014: total offense (3,935), total offense per game (327.9), touchdowns responsible for (37), completion percentage (61.2), passing yards (2,996), passing yards per game (249.7), 200-yard passing games (11), passing touchdowns (24), passing efficiency (151.3) and rushing yards by a quarterback (939).
  • Nick Chubb, RB, Georgia: With Gurley sidelined for the second half of the season, Chubb took off. Already impressing everyone when he came in to relieve Gurley, Chubb finished the season with seven straight 100-yard games (all starts), was second in the SEC with 1,281 rushing yards and tied for first with 12 rushing touchdowns. He also averaged a league-high 6.9 yards per carry. Chubb is explosive and powerful with his runs, and his vision is incredible.
  • Leonard Fournette, RB, LSU: Another special sophomore-to-be to keep an eye on, Fournette needed some time to really get going. But when he did, he was usually the best player on the field. He finished the season with 891 yards and capped the season with 146 yards (7.7 yards per carry) and a touchdown in a dominating performance against Texas A&M. Avert your eyes, Aggies! Fournette is a special talent who will be doing a lot more of this in the next couple of years.
  • Laquon Treadwell, WR, Ole Miss: Before his season was cut short by a devastating ankle injury against Auburn, Treadwell was one of the SEC's best overall players. With Cooper most likely jetting for the NFL, Treadwell will return as the SEC's best receiver in 2015. Despite missing the final three games of the season, Treadwell, who has incredible athleticism, led the Rebels with 48 catches. He finished with 632 yards and five touchdowns.
  • Derrick Henry, RB, Alabama: Though he didn't have the season most -- including me -- expected, Henry is a freak of an athlete capable of having a special season. If he is the lead guy in Alabama's backfield next fall, he should compete for the title of best running back in the SEC and improve on the 895 yards and 10 touchdowns he had while splitting carries this fall.
  • Josh Robinson, RB, Mississippi State: The bowling ball had a fantastic season in Starkville, rushing for 1,128 yards (third in the SEC) and 11 touchdowns. Robinson was at the top of the SEC's rushing chart for most of the season and rushed for at least 100 yards four times. His numbers fell off during the final portion of the season, but Robinson is a big-play machine. Small in stature, he is a bull of a runner with a knack for tossing defenders off him or slipping out of their grasp for extra yards.
The NFL could claim these guys:
  • T.J. Yeldon, RB, Alabama: He leads Alabama with 932 rushing yards and has 10 touchdowns, but he could take his game to the next level. He wasn't completely healthy this season, but his vision and ball security improved a lot in 2014.
  • D'haquille Williams, WR, Auburn: He missed two games but still led the Tigers with 45 catches for 730 yards and five touchdowns. Another top-tier athlete, Williams made a ton of clutch plays for Auburn this fall. But with his incredible athleticism and size, he's very much a candidate to leave early.
Keep an eye on:
  • Speedy Noil, WR, Texas A&M: He had only 559 receiving yards and five touchdowns, but when you are regularly making plays like this, people better be on the lookout for you. Noil is a supreme athlete who will grow with more time in the Aggies' offense.

Price of playing good defense going up

December, 13, 2014
Dec 13
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Alabama’s Kirby Smart makes $1.35 million per year and, at least for now, is the second-highest-paid defensive coordinator in the state.

How is that possible?

This is how: The price for good defense in college football is skyrocketing, especially in this era of offense being played at breakneck pace and 57 FBS teams averaging more than 30 points per game this season.

It’s the reason Auburn went out and made one of Smart’s best friends, former Florida coach Will Muschamp, the highest-paid coordinator (offense or defense) in college football. Muschamp’s blockbuster deal will pay him in excess of $1.6 million per year, which according to USA Today’s recent study, is more than at least 60 FBS head coaches earned this season.

That’s some serious dough to be paying a coordinator, but Auburn is serious about establishing the kind of identity on defense that it has on offense under Gus Malzahn.

What’s more, there’s also the business of keeping up with Alabama, which outgunned Auburn 55-44 a few weeks ago in the Iron Bowl, sending the Tigers to their fourth loss. In all four of those losses this season, Auburn gave up at least 34 points.

Less than 24 hours after the loss to Alabama, Malzahn fired veteran defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson, who has a pretty spiffy résumé of his own. But Auburn struggled to stop people most of the season, and even though the Tigers played for the national championship a year ago, Malzahn felt like he had to make a move on defense.

It was already a foregone conclusion that Muschamp was going to be one of the hottest free agents out there after getting the boot at Florida with two games remaining in the regular season, which made Malzahn’s decision to part ways with Johnson only that much easier.

South Carolina and Texas A&M had also set their sights on Muschamp, who had the luxury of sitting back and seeing how everything played out. He walked away from Florida with a $6 million parting gift and his reputation as one of the top defensive minds in the game fully intact.

Few defensive coaches around the country are more respected than Muschamp, who runs the same 3-4 defense Alabama does under Nick Saban and Smart and has a keen eye for the kind of player he’s looking for in his scheme.

Muschamp’s problems at Florida were on offense. The Gators were a load on defense every year he was there. In fact, they’re the only team in the SEC to finish in the top 10 nationally in total defense each of the past four seasons. They allowed just 4.45 yards per play this season; only four teams in the country were better (Clemson, Penn State, Stanford and UCF).

The Gators gave up 21.2 points per game this season, which was their highest average under Muschamp.

His true value goes a lot a deeper than numbers, though. His defenses play with a passion and a bloody-your-nose mindset that are infectious, and it also doesn’t hurt that he knows Alabama’s defensive scheme inside and out.

Saban has said the two guys who know how to run his defense exactly the way he wants it run are Smart and Muschamp.

The challenge for Muschamp will be incorporating his style of defense into Malzahn’s hurry-up, no-huddle system on offense. As a rule, the two don’t always go together, and one of the tricky parts is being able to find the right balance on the practice field, where, as a defensive coach, you feel like you’re able to be physical enough to keep your edge.

One of the reasons Muschamp was comfortable with signing on as Malzahn’s defensive coordinator was that Malzahn, for all the talk about his being a spread coach, believes deeply in running the ball. The Tigers are not one of these spread teams that’s going to throw it on every down.

It’s an offensive world right now in college football. Every game is on television, and the people who write the checks love points and love being entertained.

Most of the marquee head-coaching jobs are going to offensive guys right now. That’s no coincidence.

But it’s also no coincidence that the teams winning national championships are also playing championship defense. Only one of the past 10 BCS national champions (Auburn in 2010) has finished outside of the top 10 nationally in total defense.

The game’s changing, no doubt, but not to the point where defensive coaches of Muschamp’s ilk are devalued.

As Auburn showed us Friday night, people are still willing to pay top dollar to get them.

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ESPN.com's All-SEC team

December, 12, 2014
Dec 12
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Now that the Associated Press and the league coaches have spoken and cast their votes for their All-SEC teams, it's time for us to get in on the fun.

We here at the ESPN.com's SEC blog put our heads together for days trying to come up with what we thought was the perfect team, and, of course, we think we got it all right. Correction: We KNOW we got it right.

Here's what we came up with:

OFFENSE

QB: Dak Prescott, Mississippi State: Prescott directed the Bulldogs to their first 10-win season since 1999. He led the SEC with 3,970 yards of offense and was responsible for 228 points (38 touchdowns), which ranks fifth nationally.

RB: Cameron Artis-Payne, Auburn: Like Tre Mason before him, Artis-Payne finished the regular season leading the SEC in rushing. The senior rushed for 1,482 yards and 11 touchdowns.

RB: Nick Chubb, Georgia: Only a true freshman, Chubb was second in the SEC with 1,281 rushing yards and tied for first in the league with 12 rushing touchdowns. Chubb rushed for at least 113 yards in the seven games he started.

WR: Amari Cooper, Alabama: The record-breaking athlete and SEC Offensive Player of the Year is easily the nation's best wide receiver and led the nation with 115 receptions for 1,656 yards. He had seven 100-yard receiving games.

WR: D'haquille Williams, Auburn: Just a freak of an athlete, Williams led the Tigers with 45 catches for 730 yards and five touchdowns despite missing two games near the end of the season.

TE: Evan Engram, Ole Miss: Engram became the Rebels' top receiving target after Laquon Treadwell went down and finished second on the team with 37 receptions. His 651 receiving yards led all SEC tight ends.

OT/G: Sebastian Tretola, Arkansas: He was one of the SEC's best linemen with his ability to play both inside and outside for the Razorbacks, and he even provided us with a touchdown pass this season.

OG: A.J. Cann, South Carolina: The four-year starter has started 50 of the 51 games he's played in at South Carolina and is a top NFL draft guard prospect who is excellent blocking both the pass and rush.

C: Reese Dismukes, Auburn: The two-time first-team All-SEC member has been the linchpin of the Tigers' offensive line the last two seasons and was excellent in 2014.

OG: Ben Beckwith, Mississippi State: The burly Beckwith was the only player to be named SEC Offensive Lineman of the Week three times this season.

OT: La'el Collins, LSU: Another top NFL draft prospect at his position, Collins was good enough to leave early last year, but got even better protecting LSU quarterbacks in 2014.

All-purpose: Pharoh Cooper, South Carolina: Cooper finished the regular season with 1,242 all-purpose yards and was second in the SEC with 966 receiving yards.

DEFENSE

DL: Shane Ray, Missouri: The SEC Defensive Player of the Year led the league with 14 sacks and 21 tackles for loss. Ray registered at least half a tackle for loss in 12 games this season.

DL: A'Shawn Robinson, Alabama: He might not have had the numbers of other defensive linemen around him in this league because of a slow start, but Robinson proved to be one of the league's most disruptive defenders up front.

DL: Dante Fowler Jr., Florida: The hybrid defender was one of the SEC's best pass-rushers this season, leading the Gators with 5.5 sacks, 12 tackles for loss and 15 quarterback hurries.

DL: Trey Flowers, Arkansas: The Hogs' lineman faced more double-teams this season but still cranked out a productive season, leading the team with five sacks and 13.5 tackles for loss. He also totaled 63 tackles.

LB: Benardrick McKinney, Mississippi State: Another guy who didn't put up monster stats, the possible first-round draft pick was the leader of Mississippi State's defense, the most consistent player for the Bulldogs and the unquestioned quarterback of the defense.

LB: Martrell Spaight, Arkansas: He led the league with 123 total tackles and tied for the league lead with 60 solo stops. Spaight also forced two fumbles and recorded 8.5 tackles for loss.

LB: Kwon Alexander, LSU: One of the SEC's most athletic linebackers, Alexander was the ultimate playmaker for the Tigers, leading LSU with 79 tackles with 32 being solo.

CB: Senquez Golson, Ole Miss: Golson did a complete 180 in 2014, becoming one of the nation's best cover corners, as he was second nationally with nine interceptions and first in the SEC with 17 passes defensed.

S: Landon Collins, Alabama: Another top NFL draft prospect, Collins played the role of dynamic ball hawk for the Crimson Tide and was able to make plays all over the field. He led the team with 91 tackles and three interceptions.

S: Cody Prewitt, Ole Miss: An All-American last season, Prewitt didn't fall off. While he only registered two interceptions, Prewitt made plays all over the field for the Rebels, not shying away from combat in the box.

CB: Vernon Hargreaves III, Florida: The youngster just keeps getting better. He grabbed just two interceptions, but was an excellent one-on-one defender, defending 15 passes.

SPECIAL TEAMS

P: JK Scott, Alabama: There's a reason Alabama's fans joked about a potential Heisman run for Scott. He averaged 47 yards per punt with a long of 70 yards, downing 26 inside the 20-yard line and had 18 kicks go 50-plus yards.

K: Austin MacGinnis, Kentucky: He connected on 21 of his 27 attempts and hit 8 of 12 from 40 yards and beyond, including a long of 54 yards.

KR: Marcus Murphy, Missouri: Murphy averaged 29.9 yards per kickoff return (478 yards) and scored two touchdowns. He also had 273 punt return yards and a touchdown.
AUBURN TIGERS (8-4) vs. WISCONSIN BADGERS (10-3)
JAN. 1, NOON ET, RAYMOND JAMES STADIUM, TAMPA, FLA. (ESPN2)


AUBURN BREAKDOWN

Season highlights: The defending SEC champs picked up right where they left off last season, winning the first five games and taking down the likes of Arkansas, Kansas State and LSU in the process. During that stretch, the Tigers looked as dominant as any team in the country and were outscoring their opponents by an average score of 42-14. Despite a loss to Mississippi State in early October, Auburn climbed back up to No. 3 after a dramatic win at Ole Miss, which was easily the best win of the season for Gus Malzahn’s team.

Season lowlights: The brutal schedule finally affected Auburn down the stretch. The Tigers lost three of their last four, and the defense allowed 30 or more points in the last six conference games. No loss hurt more than the Iron Bowl, when Auburn coughed up a 33-21 lead to in-state rival Alabama and lost despite scoring 44 points and gaining 630 yards. That loss, coupled with the struggles in SEC play, ultimately cost defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson his job.

Player to watch: Take your pick on offense. Nick Marshall, Cameron Artis-Payne and D'haquille Williams all had sensational seasons, but the bowl will be Marshall’s last game at Auburn and maybe his final game at quarterback. The senior will likely have to change positions at the next level, but boy was he a perfect fit for Malzahn’s offense. He threw for 2,315 yards, rushed for 780 yards and scored a combined 29 touchdowns this season. It will be interesting to see how many reps Auburn gives to backup Jeremy Johnson, the quarterback of the future.

Motivation factor: After winning the SEC and playing in the BCS National Championship last season, this wasn’t what Auburn had in mind as an encore, but the Tigers typically come to play in bowl games. They had won five straight before last season’s loss to Florida State. This team has a nice mix of seniors looking to improve their draft stock and youngsters who will benefit from the extra practices. They will be a tough opponent.
-- Greg Ostendorf

vs.
WISCONSIN BADGERS

Season highlights: The Badgers won seven straight games to run away with the Big Ten West Division title. That included a 59-24 smoking of Nebraska at home when tailback Melvin Gordon rushed for a then-FBS record 408 yards. Wisconsin ranked as one of the best defensive teams in the country all season and really started to take off once it settled the quarterback situation, with Joel Stave and Tanner McEvoy forming a passing/rushing tandem.

Season lowlights: Wisconsin led LSU 24-7 in the third quarter of the season opener but ended up losing 28-24 as Gordon curiously disappeared in the second half. Even worse was an Oct. 4 loss at Northwestern, a team that would finish 5-7. Had the Badgers avoided that upset in Evanston, they might have been in the playoff discussion -- until they were destroyed 59-0 in the Big Ten title game by Ohio State in an embarrassing flop.

Player to watch: Gordon, naturally. He should finish no worse than second in the Heisman Trophy voting and is putting together one of the greatest seasons ever by a running back. He was the fastest FBS player ever to reach 2,000 yards, doing it in just 242 carries. Gordon also broke the Big Ten single-season record for rushing yards and could still break Barry Sanders' FBS single-season mark, which most people thought was untouchable.

Motivation factor: Wisconsin will have to recover from arguably the worst performance in recent program history after that evisceration in Indianapolis. The leadership on the team should be enough to ensure it bounces back. Despite all their recent regular-season success, the Badgers have come up short of late in the postseason, losing their past four bowl games. The upperclassmen in particular would like to change that.
-- Brian Bennett

SEC bowl projections: Week 15

December, 7, 2014
Dec 7
11:04
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Today we finally get to put an end to the speculation, as college football's postseason picture will become clear this afternoon.

We knew the SEC would get one team into the inaugural College Football Playoff when Alabama beat Missouri on Saturday. Nailing down the destinations for the conference's other 11 bowl-eligible teams is much more difficult.

Here are our best guesses in the final hours before we will know for sure:

College Football Playoff semifinal (Allstate Sugar Bowl): Alabama
Goodyear Cotton Bowl: Ole Miss
Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl: Mississippi State
Buffalo Wild Wings Citrus Bowl: Missouri
Outback Bowl: Auburn
TaxSlayer Bowl: Texas A&M
Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl: Arkansas
Advocare V100 Texas Bowl: LSU
Belk Bowl: Georgia
AutoZone Liberty Bowl: Tennessee
Birmingham Bowl: Florida
Duck Commander Independence Bowl: South Carolina
Jordan Howard rushed for 1,600 yards at UAB this season, and now that the program has been shuttered, recruiters are lining up to get his transfer. Plus, with the Brady Hoke news, Michigan lost four-star tight end commitment Chris Clark. So where do recruits think he’ll end up?


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Top juco prospect comparisons 

December, 3, 2014
Dec 3
10:13
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For every recruiting class that includes junior college signees, there is a high-risk, high-reward proposition because most juco prospects are expected to provide immediate help while not having much time to prepare for such a role. Some are up to the task and become immediate difference-makers such as Auburn’s D’haquille Williams. Here are three prospects in the ESPN JC 50, as well as current college stars we feel they resemble with their skillsets.


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Top 2015 juco classes 

December, 3, 2014
Dec 3
10:12
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National signing day is quickly approaching, but first up is the mid-year junior college signing period. The opportunity for junior college prospects to sign with FBS schools starts Dec. 17, and many prospects have already made commitments. With the release of the ESPN Junior College 50, let’s take a look at five programs (in alphabetical order) having success in the junior college ranks.


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SEC bowl projections: Week 14

December, 2, 2014
Dec 2
8:00
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Say goodbye to two SEC teams making the inaugural College Football Playoff.

The Big Ten, Big 12 and Pac-12 all owe a debt of gratitude to Ole Miss for knocking off Mississippi State this past Saturday, dropping the previously No. 4-ranked Bulldogs to 10-2 and out of the playoff picture.

But it's not all doom and gloom for the SEC. Realistically, the chances of getting two teams in the playoff were slim anyway.

Commissioner Mike Slive can hold his head high knowing that an astounding 12 teams (out of 14) from his conference qualified for bowl games during the regular season.

College Football Playoff semifinal (Allstate Sugar Bowl): Alabama
Capital One Orange Bowl: Mississippi State
Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl: Ole Miss
Buffalo Wild Wings Citrus Bowl: Missouri
Outback Bowl: Auburn
TaxSlayer Bowl: LSU
Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl: Georgia
Advocare V100 Texas Bowl: Texas A&M
Belk Bowl: South Carolina
AutoZone Liberty Bowl: Arkansas
Birmingham Bowl: Tennessee
Duck Commander Independence Bowl: Florida
Will Muschamp is a wanted man. The former Florida coach was once a premier defensive coordinator in college football, and now he’s being sought out for the same position by both Auburn and Texas A&M.

Muschamp isn’t the only name to have come up. Others have been linked to the two openings, including former Nebraska coach Bo Pelini, who won a national championship as LSU’s defensive coordinator in 2007, as well as current Houston defensive coordinator David Gibbs, who spent a year at Auburn in 2005 and is not far from Texas A&M.

The question is – whether it’s Muschamp, Pelini or even Gibbs – which defensive coordinator job is more attractive to potential suitors, Auburn or Texas A&M?

Greg Ostendorf: If the goal is to play for national championships, then this is a no-brainer. Auburn won a national championship in 2010 and played for another one just last season. As long as Gus Malzahn is the head coach, the Tigers will be good enough offensively to make the playoff year in and year out.

They’re also better suited to make a run next year. Despite all the young talent on the Aggies’ roster, I argue that an incoming defensive coordinator will have more to work with at Auburn than he would at Texas A&M.

 Assuming nobody leaves early, the Tigers will have seven starters returning on defense, including the top three leading tacklers (Johnathan Ford, Cassanova McKinzy and Kris Frost), the team leader in sacks (DaVonte Lambert) and the team leader in interceptions (Jonathan Jones). Can Texas A&M say the same thing?

The defense will also welcome back Carl Lawson, the team’s top pass rusher who missed the entire season due to injury. Lawson didn’t have the same type of production as the Aggies' Myles Garrett did his freshman year, but when healthy, he still has NFL potential written all over him.

That alone is a solid group, especially with Lawson coming back, but when you throw in Tre' Williams, Nick Ruffin and Stephen Roberts, a trio of promising young freshmen who all played this season and gained valuable experience, the potential for a turnaround is there as long as Auburn finds the right guy to take charge.

Some argue that Malzahn focuses primarily on offense when it comes to recruiting, but Auburn’s current 2015 class has three linebackers ranked in the ESPN 300, and the right hire could be just what the Tigers need to land a star like Jeffery Holland or Daron Payne. Can you imagine the success Muschamp would have in Florida, a state Auburn recruits well already? He would have no trouble convincing top defensive targets to join him on the Plains.

The question I have for the future defensive coordinator at Texas A&M is how long will your head coach be around? Kevin Sumlin’s name has been linked to NFL jobs the past two seasons, and it will likely come up again this offseason. Granted, Malzahn might also have a future in the NFL, but Sumlin seems closer to realizing that dream.

Let’s be honest. Both schools have money, both have top-notch facilities, and both have the resources to be successful. The difference is Auburn has better players and a better opportunity to win next year. For a defensive coordinator who might want to coach again soon, i.e. Muschamp or Pelini, there’s not a better job out there.

Sam Khan: Texas A&M’s defensive coordinator position is an appealing opportunity for prospective defensive coaches.

For starters, there is nowhere to go but up. The Aggies ranked last in the SEC in yards per game allowed in each of the past two seasons, so the room for improvement is plentiful.

 The real reason it’s a good opportunity though, is the personnel. The Aggies have ripe young talent to work with. Myles Garrett. Armani Watts. Otaro Alaka. Josh Walker. Zaycoven Henderson. Those are all true freshmen who started games for the Aggies this year.

Garrett is a bonafide star. He shattered Jadeveon Clowney’s SEC freshman sack record (Garrett has 11 sacks this season) and is the type of player the Aggies’ next defensive coordinator can build around the next two seasons (let’s be honest, the chances of Garrett exhausting his college eligibility seem slim given his production so far).

Watts showed promise at safety this season with three interceptions and seven pass breakups. Alaka and Walker performed admirably when inserted into the starting lineup late in the season and look like the linebackers of the future. Henderson is a big body with quickness to plug in the middle. And that’s not to mention a host of other underclassmen who were forced into action each of the past two seasons who will continue to grow in the coming years.

The Aggies have more young talent coming in via the 2015 recruiting class, like 5-star defensive tackle Daylon Mack, four-star defensive end James Lockhart and ESPN 300 safeties Larry Pryor Jr. and Justin Dunning. The foundation for future success is there.

Money won’t be an issue for the Aggies when it comes to paying their defensive coordinator of choice. The school is in the middle of spending nearly $500 million on football facilities upgrades and shelled out $5 million per season for Kevin Sumlin. They’re not going to go cheap on the defensive coordinator, which is a pivotal hire heading into Sumlin’s fourth season in Aggieland, just for the sake of saving a few bucks. They have to get this hire right, and they’ll spend what’s necessary to do it.

The resources to attract more defensive talent is there. The player’s locker room and lounge is second-to-none. The Aggies have one of the best weight rooms in the country. Sumlin is a master recruiter who excels at closing the deal with elite recruits.

And Sumlin is willing to give his choice a chance. Auburn has had seven defensive coordinators in the past 10 seasons. Sumlin, who has been a head coach since 2008, is going on his fourth. Sumlin has no problem making changes when necessary, but he usually isn’t the type to overreact to one season’s worth of results.
If multiple media reports on Sunday are correct, the University of Alabama at Birmingham is on the verge of becoming the first FBS school to eliminate its football program since Pacific in 1995.

Although UAB students and fans held a rally on Sunday night in a show of support for the football team, Sports Illustrated reports that the school will fire athletic director Brian Mackin and announce the elimination of football this week.

Sunday’s news was not a shock, as word began to spread around Birmingham a month ago that the university was studying football’s long-term financial viability. Although first-year coach Bill Clark led the Blazers to a remarkable turnaround, finishing 6-6 and achieving bowl eligibility for just the fourth time since UAB joined the FBS in 1996, UAB noticeably refused to commit to Clark or to the program’s future.

At the root of the issue are the decades of distrust between UAB, its supporters and the University of Alabama System Board of Trustees, which governs UAB, Alabama and Alabama-Huntsville. Blazers fans claim that the Board not only offers preferential treatment to the football factory in Tuscaloosa, but that it frequently undermines the UAB program -- and they cling to numerous conspiracy theories as to why that might be the case.

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