SEC: Vanderbilt Commodores

SEC lunchtime links

July, 30, 2014
Jul 30
12:00
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With preseason camps set to start across the SEC, catch up on some of the names to know within the conference (and the nation) with our #CFBRank series. Today covers players 60-51 and 50-41.

Once you finish with that, check out today's links:

Tennessee coach Butch Jones said Tuesday that he is trying to do a better job of maintaining relationships with ex-Volunteers who have not been around the program much in recent years.

The NCAA suspended Missouri receiver Levi Copelin for the season after he tested positive for a banned substance at an NCAA drug screening. That places an even greater burden on a Tigers receiving corps that already needed to replace a great deal of firepower.

Fletcher Page from the Athens Banner-Herald caught up with former Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray for a Q&A that covers, among other topics, his brother Josh's newfound fame after becoming the winning contestant on “The Bachelorette.”

The Tennessean takes a look at five questions facing Vanderbilt as it prepares to hold its first preseason practice on Thursday.

After backing up Connor Shaw in recent seasons, it's finally Dylan Thompson's time to start at quarterback for South Carolina.

After reviewing the film, Saturday Down South's Murf Baldwin thinks Florida's Vernon Hargreaves might be the most polished cornerback in the SEC.

While serving ice cream at a charity event on Tuesday, Auburn defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson said that he didn't know whether defensive back Jonathon Mincy would face any reduction in playing time following his offseason arrest.

Georgia's secondary is among the SEC position groups that face the most pressure in 2014 according to Athlon.

Nick Saban obviously has a big decision on his hands in choosing between quarterbacks Jake Coker and Blake Sims.

The Lexington Herald-Leader's Jen Smith came up with a bunch of interesting tidbits on Kentucky's roster after scouring through the Wildcats' new media guide.

Arkansas columnist Harry King attempts to identify the must-watch SEC games for each week of the upcoming season.

Nebraska coach Bo Pelini is apparently still unhappy about receiver Damore'ea Stringfellow's flip from the Cornhuskers to Ole Miss in June.

Dan Mullen and his coaching staff delivered a clear message to their committed in-state players on the Jackson Clarion-Ledger's Dandy Dozen prior to the group photo shoot: stay on the uncommitted prospects on the list and convince them to join Mississippi State's recruiting class, too.

Wisconsin athletic director Barry Alvarez said future opponents LSU and Alabama showed no interest in home-and-home series with the Badgers.
video
The SEC already has commitments from 77 prospects in the ESPN 300, but there are still several key targets available. Whether it's a current commit, a position of need or just the best available player, here is a look at the top must-get recruits for each SEC team.

Alabama remains the clear favorite to win the SEC in 2014 according to the latest odds posted by Bovada.

The sportsbook released odds on each team's chance to win the conference earlier this summer and recently released an updated set of odds. Auburn remains at 5-to-1 and is joined by South Carolina, who is tied for second with the Tigers at 5-to-1 odds.

Georgia, a team that previously had 5-to-1 odds is now running at 6-to-1. LSU comes in behind the Bulldogs and interestingly, Florida comes in next at 13-to-2 odds. Clearly, oddsmakers are betting on the Gators bouncing back from last fall's 4-8 disaster. Notably, the Gators are ahead of rising Ole Miss, Texas A&M and Missouri -- the team that won the SEC East in 2013 -- in the updated odds.

Here's a look at the full list of odds for the conference:

Alabama -- 7/5
Auburn -- 5/1
South Carolina -- 5/1
Georgia -- 6/1
LSU -- 13/2
Florida -- 12/1
Ole Miss -- 14/1
Texas A&M -- 25/1
Missouri -- 40/1
Mississippi State -- 40/1
Tennessee -- 50/1
Arkansas -- 100/1
Kentucky -- 200/1
Vanderbilt -- 200/1

SEC's lunch links

July, 29, 2014
Jul 29
12:00
PM ET
Looks like Tennessee products Peyton Manning and Britton Colquitt heard that the Volunteers open preseason practice this week. Check out the “Rocky Top” dance party before Denver's practice on Monday.

Here are today's links:

• Georgia is handing a scholarship to tight end Joseph Ledbetter after he played two seasons of basketball at NCAA Division II Pfeiffer University. Perhaps coincidentally, perhaps not, Ledbetter's brother Jonathan is committed to Alabama for next year's recruiting class.

• Mississippi State's Dee Arrington and Ferlando Bohanna are both out for the season, and the Bulldogs have three freshmen who are still working to gain eligibility for 2014.

• With as many as four capable tailbacks available, South Carolina might not need Mike Davis to carry as heavy a load in the backfield this fall.

• James Franklin redshirted all but three players from Vanderbilt's well-regarded 2013 signing class, so new Commodores coach Derek Mason will have some talented redshirt freshmen at his disposal this fall.

• The Lexington Herald-Leader's Mark Story remembers “Wah Wah” Jones, who died Sunday at age 88. Jones was a standout player for legendary coaches Bear Bryant and Adolph Rupp at Kentucky and won a gold medal as a member of the U.S. men's basketball team in 1948.

• The Montgomery Advertiser's James Crepea asks a question many Auburn fans are wondering: When will the Tigers roll out highly-recruited running back Roc Thomas to join the established veterans in the backfield?

Weight has been a regular subject for both defensive lineman Isaac Gross and quarterback (among other possible positions) Jeremy Liggins at Ole Miss.

• The Orlando Sentinel's Chris Hays writes that a rash of decommitments should not concern Florida yet, although plenty of prospects are in wait-and-see mode after the Gators went 4-8 last season.

• Adding top junior-college receiver D'haquille Williams has left Auburn's wideouts even more optimistic about what they can accomplish this fall.

• A pair of LSU freshman defensive linemen were issued citations for misdemeanor offenses last week.

• Alabama's top three running backs (T.J. Yeldon, Derrick Henry and Kenyan Drake) bring a variety of impressive skills to the Crimson Tide backfield.

• Quarterback Maty Mauk is ready to run the show this season at Missouri after briefly filling in for James Franklin last fall.

SEC lunchtime links

July, 24, 2014
Jul 24
12:00
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This day in sports will be forever remembered for the pine-tar home run hit by Kansas City Royals third baseman George Brett. Who can forget Brett running out of the dugout, throwing his hat down and arguing the call after the umpire ruled him out for using an illegal bat with too much pine tar?


Now let’s get back to football and Thursday’s lunch links.
Whether you believe him or not, Alabama coach Nick Saban is playing his quarterback battle close to the vest.

You, me and everyone in between has former Florida State backup Jacob Coker taking the starting job in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, but Saban isn't going to make it that easy. What Saban doesn't want is an overly confident quarterback walking into his program and screwing things up, so Saban's language makes sense.

Still, we're all pretty sure that Coker will leave fall practice ahead of Blake Sims and those youngsters who duked it out during spring practice.

While we might have it all figured out for the Crimson Tide, competition will take place next month to see who starts the opener against West Virginia on Aug. 30. And that's not the only QB battle that we'll be diving into in the coming weeks. Other teams are trying to sort things out under center heading into fall camp:

KENTUCKY

Patrick Towles vs. Drew Barker vs. Reese Phillips vs. Maxwell Smith: Coming out of spring, Towles, a redshirt sophomore, had a slight lead over everyone. He's an impressive athlete and has matured considerably since his arrival on campus. Phillips and Barker have yet to take snaps with the Wildcats in a real game, but that won't stop the coaches from throwing them in on Day 1 of the season. Barker arrived with a ton of hype and is clearly the future of the position. Smith, the quarterback with the most experience on the roster, is finally throwing again after undergoing extensive shoulder surgery before the spring. If he's healthy, he'll compete, but it looks like this really is a three-horse race right now. Advantage: Towles

LSU

Anthony Jennings vs. Brandon Harris: Jennings ended last season with mixed reviews after replacing an injured Zach Mettenberger. And his spring got even tougher with the emergence of Harris, a true freshman. Both are incredibly inexperienced, but have that dual-threat quality that will help either this fall, as they try to run this offense. Harris really impressed his coaches and teammates this spring, and many think he might have a slight advantage. Coach Les Miles raved about him at SEC media days and praised his throwing ability, something Jennings has to work more on going forward. Advantage: Harris

TENNESSEE

Justin Worley vs. Josh Dobbs vs. Nathan Peterman: Worley is the old soul around the football complex. The senior had an up-and-down 2013 season that included thumb surgery, but left spring with a bit more confidence. Dobbs has the athleticism and upside to be a stud, but he has to get more comfortable in the pocket and mature as a passer. Peterman had limited reps this spring, causing some to think he would transfer, but he'll compete this fall for the starting job. Honestly, it's a murky situation at quarterback, but a complete overhaul of the offensive line might make it tough for any quarterback to succeed in 2014. Advantage: Worley

TEXAS A&M

Kenny Hill vs. Kyle Allen: Hill's arrest during the spring perked a lot of ears in the Allen camp, but this race is far from over. While Hill is still looking to regain trust, he has more experience than Allen, a true freshman, and knows the Aggies' offense better to this point. Both are athletic guys, but you'll see a little more running out of Hill. Allen has the potential to be a star with his throwing ability and awareness in the pocket, and might be little more polished than Hill in that category. Sumlin isn't the kind of coach who wants to shuffle his quarterbacks, a la Steve Spurrier, but he won't be afraid to play both guys this fall if he has to. Advantage: Push

VANDERBILT

Patton Robinette vs. Johnny McCrary vs. Stephen Rivers vs. Wade Freebeck: During the spring, we thought this was going to come down to Robinette and McCrary. Robinette has the only game experience on the roster at quarterback, but McCrary is a big, physical player who can make plays with his arm and legs. He might be the most athletic of the bunch and is viewed as an exciting up-and-comer. But when Rivers transferred from LSU, things changed. He only has one year to compete, and his coaches are raving about him. Coach Derek Mason also likes that he's gotten bigger since his arrival. As for Freebeck, Mason calls him "phenomenal" and is intrigued by his size. He's grown two inches (6-foot-5 now) and is up to 217 pounds. Advantage: Push
BRISTOL, Conn. -- Vanderbilt has played in three consecutive bowl games for the first time in school history.

Stanford has appeared in four straight BCS bowl games, and Notre Dame played for a BCS national championship two seasons ago.

[+] EnlargeVanderbilt's Derek Mason
Marvin Gentry/USA TODAY SportsDerek Mason wants Vanderbilt to be a 'quarterback school.'
Duke, of all teams, is coming off a 10-win season.

It seems it pays to be smart in college football nowadays.

“You’re not walking into a home having to apologize about being smart,” new Vanderbilt coach Derek Mason said. “You’re not trying to downplay what you’re doing academically.”

Mason, who worked as Stanford’s associate head coach and defensive coordinator the past three seasons, was hired by Vanderbilt to replace the departed James Franklin on Jan. 17. Franklin had a 24-15 record the past three seasons, including 9-4 marks in 2012 and ’13.

Mason sees a lot of similarities between Stanford and Vanderbilt, both academically and athletically.

“In my mind, when I look at the landscape of college football and where we’re at, Vanderbilt is poised to have success,” Mason said. “The groundwork has been laid and gives us an opportunity to compete now. From players to scheduling, everything is in place for us to get what [we want], which is an SEC East title.”

Like Vanderbilt, Stanford wasn’t a football juggernaut until coach Jim Harbaugh arrived in 2007. The Cardinal went 1-11 in coach Walt Harris’ final season in 2006 and then had consecutive losing campaigns in Harbaugh’s first two seasons. But Stanford has won 54 games the past five seasons combined under Harbaugh and his successor, David Shaw.

“When you have brands that are very, very similar and you had the opportunity to see things work, I think you integrate the things that worked well,” Mason said. “You have to look at what the environment is like at Vanderbilt and figure out how you can make it better.”

On the field, Mason will have to replace eight starters on defense and settle on a starting quarterback. Sophomore Patton Robinette, redshirt freshman Johnny McCrary, freshman Wade Freebeck and senior Stephen Rivers, an LSU transfer, will battle for the starting job when preseason camp opens. The Commodores must also replace star receiver Jordan Matthews.

“I want to turn Vanderbilt into a quarterback school and infuse talent,” Mason said.

Sounds a lot like Stanford.

SEC lunchtime links

July, 21, 2014
Jul 21
12:00
PM ET
Seven SEC coaches, including Auburn’s Gus Malzahn and LSU’s Les Miles, will go through ESPN’s “Car Wash” on Monday, appearing on "Sportscenter," "College Football Live," "First Take" and more. Stay tuned throughout the day.

In the meantime, be sure to read Monday’s lunch links to get your SEC fix.
SEC legends Steve Spurrier, Bo Jackson, Charles Barkley, Frank Thomas and Chucky Mullins are among the subjects of upcoming “SEC Storied” documentaries that will air on the SEC Network.

Four new documentaries will debut in a three-week period between the new network's launch on Aug. 14 and Sept. 4. The films and schedule were revealed this week at SEC media days.

Here's a quick rundown. Click the movie titles to view the trailers:

“The Stars Are Aligned”
Directed by Andy Billman
Thursday, Aug. 14, 9 p.m. ET
On the first day of the new network, a group of 14 famous figures each representing a different SEC college -- including actress Ashley Judd, musician Darius Rucker, political consultant James Carville and Governor Rick Perry -- explain how they live and die with their respective SEC schools. Some other celebrities included in the documentary are Shepard Smith, Emmitt Smith, Jonathan Papelbon, Melissa Joan Hart, Charlie Daniels, Amy Robach and Ralphie May.

“Bo, Barkley and The Big Hurt”
Directed by Larry Weitzman
Thursday, Aug. 21, 8 p.m. ET
Told through their reunion at the 2013 Iron Bowl, this documentary recounts how future Hall of Famers Charles Barkley, Bo Jackson and Frank Thomas arrived at Auburn in the 1980s and brought their teams to national relevance. It started with oversized, wisecracking basketball player Barkley's arrival on the Plains, followed by multi-sport star Jackson picking the Tigers over Alabama and continued with Thomas, who will be inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame on July 27, initially coming to Auburn to play football when no MLB club drafted him.

“The Believer”
Co-directed by Kenny Chesney and Shaun Silva
Wednesday, Aug. 27, 8 p.m. ET
Country music star Kenny Chesney co-directed this story about South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier's long history within the conference -- growing up as a Tennessee fan, winning a Heisman Trophy at Florida and later leading the Gators to a national championship, and now as the coach who has built the Gamecocks into a national power. It will air on Aug. 27, the day before the Gamecocks host Texas A&M in the first football game on the SEC Network.

“It's Time”
Directed by Fritz Mitchell
Thursday, Sept. 4, 8 p.m. ET
Inspired by an unlikely friendship born out of tragedy, “It's Time” explains what happened after a 1989 play when Ole Miss defensive back Chucky Mullins suffered a broken neck while hitting Vanderbilt running back Brad Gaines -- a play that did not injure Gaines but left Mullins as a quadriplegic. The two became close friends over the next two years until Mullins died of a blood clot in a Memphis hospital room, with Gaines by his side.
The extended version of SEC media days is behind us, and we've seen the way the media voted in terms of picking the champion and the preseason All-SEC selections.

Alabama was the pick, which given our track record, might not be the best news for the Crimson Tide. As Nick Saban so willingly reminded everybody, it's not like the media has had a crystal ball lately when it comes to picking the SEC champ. Only four times in the last 22 years have the media correctly picked the SEC champion at the SEC's preseason shindig.

Maybe this is the year we start the kind of streak John Wooden would be proud of. Here's a look at the selections from SEC media days this year.

Below is my own ballot, and Edward will unveil his later today after he finishes breaking down tape from all of the World Cup matches (or are they games?).

OFFENSE
QB: Nick Marshall, Auburn
RB: Todd Gurley, Georgia
RB: Mike Davis, South Carolina
WR: Amari Cooper, Alabama
WR: Malcolm Mitchell, Georgia
TE: Hunter Henry, Arkansas
OL: Cedric Ogbuehi, Texas A&M
OL: Laremy Tunsil, Ole Miss
OL: La'el Collins, LSU
OL: A.J. Cann, South Carolina
C: Reese Dismukes, Auburn

DEFENSE
DL: Dante Fowler, Jr., Florida
DL: Chris Jones, Mississippi State
DL: A'Shawn Robinson, Alabama
DL: Robert Nkemdiche, Ole Miss
LB: Benardrick McKinney, Mississippi State
LB: Leonard Floyd, Georgia
LB: Trey DePriest, Alabama
DB: Vernon Hargreaves III, Florida
DB: Taveze Calhoun, Mississippi State
DB: Landon Collins, Alabama
DB: Cody Prewitt, Ole Miss

SPECIALISTS
PK: Marshall Morgan, Georgia
P: Drew Kaser, Texas A&M
RS: Marcus Murphy, Missouri
AP: Christion Jones, Alabama

EAST
1. South Carolina
2. Georgia
3. Florida
4. Tennessee
5. Missouri
6. Vanderbilt
7. Kentucky

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

SEC CHAMPION
Alabama

SEC Media Days Live (10 a.m.-4 p.m. ET)

July, 17, 2014
Jul 17
8:00
AM ET
It's the unofficial start of college football season as media events kick off with the biggest one of all, the four-day SEC circus in Hoover, Alabama. Keep this page open throughout today's proceedings as we bring you all of the latest from our array of reporters, who will cover all 14 teams at the event.

 

SEC Media Days Live (10 a.m.-5 p.m. ET)

July, 16, 2014
Jul 16
10:00
AM ET
It's the unofficial start of college football season as media events kick off with the biggest one of all, the four-day SEC circus in Hoover, Alabama. Keep this page open throughout today's proceedings as we bring you all of the latest from our array of reporters, who will cover all 14 teams at the event.

 

SEC Media Days Live (10 a.m.-5 p.m. ET)

July, 15, 2014
Jul 15
10:00
AM ET
It's the unofficial start of college football season as media events kick off with the biggest one of all, the four-day SEC circus in Hoover, Alabama. Keep this page open throughout today's proceedings as we bring you all of the latest from our array of reporters, who will cover all 14 teams at the event.

 
HOOVER, Ala. -- Derek Mason had the media eating out of his palm the second he strolled into the Hyatt Regency Hotel on Monday wearing a sharp black bow tie and a patterned gold jacket. Then he did the rarest thing you’ll see at a conference media days gathering: He opened his mouth and meaningful words came out.

In a sea of vanilla quotes and too-tight windsor knots, Mason set himself apart at SEC media days. He stepped to the podium, proudly called himself the new head coach on the block and added that, "The great thing is I'm undefeated, so I'm feeling real good about where we're at." Later he was asked who the most underrated team in the league might be this season, and without the slightest pause he said it was his own.

[+] EnlargeVanderbilt's Derek Mason
Marvin Gentry/USA TODAY Sports"I think our opportunity to compete for an SEC East title is now," new Vanderbilt coach Derek Mason said.
While the rest of the country might see Vanderbilt as a nice little rebuilding project that can raise the league's SAT scores, Mason dared to be confident.

"I think our opportunity to compete for an SEC East title is now," he said.

If James Franklin was audacious about raising expectations at Vanderbilt, his successor is taking it one step further. Everything is on the table for Mason. He wants to recruit nationally. He wants to play freshmen right away. He wants to throw the SEC for a loop with his West Coast roots.

"My job is to compete," Mason said. "My team has to be competitive. I need to be competitive from a recruiting standpoint, from a coaching standpoint, from selling of our program, our city. Those things are what I've been charged with to do. I really embrace that from the standpoint of here is the opportunity, let's go."

Stanford's former defensive coordinator will have his fair share of challenges as a first-year head coach, to be sure. He's inheriting a team that lost its starting quarterback, both its top receivers and more than half of its defense from a year ago. With games against Ole Miss, South Carolina, Georgia and Florida on the schedule, it’s going to be an uphill battle.

But Mason believes linebacker Caleb Azubike is going to be a star, Andrew Williamson is the best safety you’ve never heard of, and the tight ends, led by Steven Scheu, could be a real weapon.

"Our team is a team of probably no-name young men who have a chance to do something great," Mason said. "It's talented across the board."

Just how talented remains to be seen. But if media days was a barometer, Vanderbilt won’t be lacking in confidence.

While other coaches deflected and dodged questions on Monday, Mason happily navigated the fray.

Late in the day, he went up to two workers carrying the SEC championship trophy. He stopped to pose alongside it, made the Vanderbilt "V" with his right hand and called the prize "what we are chasing."

SEC Media Days Live (12-7 p.m. ET)

July, 14, 2014
Jul 14
12:23
PM ET
It's the unofficial start of college football season as media events kick off with the biggest one of all, the four-day SEC circus in Hoover, Alabama. Keep this page open throughout today's proceedings as we bring you all of the latest from our array of reporters, who will cover all 14 teams at the event.

 

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