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SEC Headlines – 2/11/13

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1. Tennessee earned its first road win of the season on Sunday by beating South Carolina 66-61.

2. Vols point guard Trae Golden returned from injury and played aggressively.

3. South Carolina coach Frank Martin on the Gamecocks’s offense: “It’s embarrassing.”

4. Florida and Kentucky’s are the SEC’s top two teams again, writes John Clay.

5. Florida is the only SE team in the CBSSports.com Top 25 (and one). Missouri dropped out.

6. Mississippi State guard Jalen Steele has been suspended indefinitely for “violation of team rules.”

Football

6. Alabama introduced highly-touted running back Derrick Henry this weekend.

7. One word appropriately described the level of recruiting in the SEC West: “stacked.”

8. Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin: “Our phones were ringing off the hooks” following a 11-2 season.

9. Running backs coach Jay Graham says Tennessee was recruiting Jabo Lee “all the way through.”

10. Ole Miss should see improvements on offense next fall.

11. Nick Marshall is back in the SEC and Auburn and back playing quarterback.

Extras

12. Kentucky is among the nation’s elite hoops programs needing a late-season jilt.

13. Kentucky center Nerlens Noel is one player to watch vs. the entire Florida team.

14. No surprise: the nation’s top recruiting on defense took place in the SEC.

15. LSU coach Les Miles was tweeting to himself Sunday about the Miami Heat-LA Lakers game.

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Summitt Says Decision To Step Away ‘Entirely’ Hers

Pat Summitt released a statement Friday saying it was her decision in April to step down as the Tennessee women’s basketball coach.

“It was entirely my decision to step down from my position as Head Coach of women’s basketball the University of Tennessee,” Summitt wrote in her statement.

Summitt, who stepped down on April 18 to become head coach emeritus of the Lady Vols program, also denied that she was “forced out” by Tennessee.

“Anyone who knows me knows that any such effort would have met with resistance,” Summitt wrote. “If my affidavit has caused confusion on that point, it needs to be dispelled.”

As we wrote last night, a statement from Summitt or her son Tyler would have been the only thing to aid Tennessee as it battled public scrutiny from Summitt’s signed affidavit, which stated athletic director Dave Hart made the decision in the spring to replace Summitt with long-time assistant coach Holly Warlick.

This statement from Summitt should help ease the minds of many Tennessee fans who were directing anger at the school on Thursday.

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Top 5 SEC Freshman Defensive Linemen

Look at last year’s matchups between Alabama and LSU.

You’ll find dominant defensive line play, as you will again this year when the two teams play in Baton Rouge, La., on Nov. 3.

The rest of the SEC has already noticed, and they’re trying to catch up.

Here’s a look at the top five true freshman defensive lineman in the SEC.

1. Dante Fowler, Jr. – Florida

He made a quick impression this fall despite a late start because of academic concerns. He could be the best pass rusher in this class. Fowler (6-3, 277) will be used early and often in Gainesville, as he showed on Saturday that he can make help this Florida defense. Watch him grow in the Gators’ program. He’ll be a star.

2. Jonathan Bullard – Florida

It’s scary to think Florida could have the top two linemen in the 2012 class. But it’s true. Like Fowler, Bullard had an academic scare before he was cleared to join the Gators. How much Bullard will be counted on early is tough to tell, but he will play this year and should be a big part of Florida’s future. Bullard (6-3, 271) has great size and should be a perfect fit in Will Muschamp’s defense.

3. Quay Evans – Mississippi State

He looks like an SEC-ready defensive tackle right now. Those players aren’t easy to find. Evans (6-2, 312) will play often this season. With that size and the ability to move, how could the Bulldogs keep him off the field? Evans was an important in-state signee for Mississippi State. And he isn’t the only freshman defensive tackle who’s impressed. Watch out for Nick James, too.

4. Channing Ward – Ole Miss

First-year coach Hugh Freeze was glad to see Ward receive his clearance in Mid-August. Ward still has some catching up to do, but he should be able to help the Rebels this fall. Ward (6-4, 256) will need to add weight during his career but looks good as a true freshman. Ward, along with freshmen defensive tackle Issac Gross and safety Trae Elston, should provide a nice nucleus to begin Freeze’s tenure in Oxford.

5. Korren Kirven – Alabama

He could be the next great lineman in Nick Saban’s dominant defensive system. Let’s see how Kirven (6-5, 292) is used on Alabama’s defensive line, which has plenty of depth but will need Kirven to be a standout in the future. How strong is Alabama’s recruiting right now? As soon as the Crimson Tide decided to made a late push to land Kirven, he quickly chose Alabama over Virginia Tech and Tennessee. It will pay off for Alabama.

Be sure to keep up with recruiting from across the SEC on MrSEC.com’s Recruiting Page.

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Texas A&M’s Season Opener Postponed

Louisiana Tech announced Tuesday afternoon it has postponed its opening game against Texas A&M because of weather concerns.

The news could be significant for Texas A&M on the field.

The Aggies will now open their season against Florida on Sept. 8. That means Texas A&M, which will begin the season with a redshirt freshman quarterback, will enter SEC play without facing a non-conference test. Florida will host Bowling Green on Saturday.

Texas A&M will also lose its mid-season bye week. The Aggies were scheduled to be off the weekend of Oct. 13 before hosting LSU on Oct. 20.

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Mississippi State Disassociates Self From Booster

Mississippi State has disassociated itself from a booster who made impermissible contact with a prospective student-athlete.

That information comes from a letter written by attorney Michael Glazier, who is serving as outside for the school as the NCAA continues to investigate the recruiting tactics of former wide receivers coach Angelo Mirando. The name of the banned booster was blacked out in the school’s release.

The letter, per the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal, states the following:

“The (NCAA) investigation has revealed that as a representative of Mississippi State’s athletic interests (Bulldog Club member), you engaged in impermissible contact with the prospective student-athlete and that other violations of NCAA rules also may have occurred.”

Reports last week linked the NCAA investigation to Mississippi State freshman Will Redmond, who signed with the Bulldogs out of Memphis (Tenn.) East High School.

It appears Redmond isn’t the only Memphis-area prospect who has brought on the interest of the NCAA. Georgia freshman Sheldon Dawson, who attended Memphis Ridgeway, will be interviewed by an NCAA representative on Friday, according to the Memphis Commercial Appeal.

Alabama signee Brandon Hill, who has enrolled at Hargrave Military Academy, met with the NCAA close to six months ago while attending St. George’s Independent School in Collierville, Tenn., according to the Commercial Appeal.

The subject of the interviews, according to both schools’ coaches, has centered around Mississippi State.

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Top 5 SEC Freshman Linebackers

SEC speed.

That’s brought up often and it can usually be traced to the linebacker position.

There’s speed all over the field in the SEC, but it stands out at linebacker when you include the size that comes with it. The 2012 signing class should help carry on that tradition.

Here are the top five true freshman linebackers in the SEC.

1. Otha Peters – Arkansas

The Arkansas coaching staff began its praise of Peters early in fall camp. Peters, who originally committed to Tennessee, could be the most underrated 2012 signee in the SEC. He went without a scholarship offer from in-state LSU. Expect big things from Peters (6-1, 228), who should see significant playing time immediately. His career in Fayetteville will only get better.

2. Kwon Alexander – LSU

There’s a reason Alabama and Auburn never slowed their pursuit of Alexander even after he tore his ACL in 2011. He’s adjusted quickly during practice this fall and should contribute early to LSU’s talented defense. Alexander (6-2, 215) needs to add weight but has the kind of athleticism coach John Chavis requires to play linebacker in his defense. Alexander should excel under Chavis’ guidance.

3. Antonio Morrison – Florida

The Gators don’t typically have to travel to Big Ten country to find their top defenders, but Florida did that when it signed Morrison out of Illinois. Smart move. Morrison (6-1, 218) has already shown he will make a big impact in Gainesville. Florida has an experienced group of linebackers, but Jon Bostic and Jelani Jenkins won’t be around forever. Morrison should be a good replacement.

4. Richie Brown -Mississippi State

Bulldog fans should be excited about the future at linebacker. Brown and fellow freshman Beniquez Brown (no relation) have both impressed at linebacker this fall. Richie Brown (6-2, 225) is a great athlete – he played multiple positions on offense in high school. That experience should pay off when he’s pursuing opposing players in the SEC.

5. Kaiwan Lewis – South Carolina

Lewis (6-0, 225) looks like he’s ready to play in the SEC now. He’s a good athlete who has the size to be a physical player at the inside linebacker position. South Carolina has continued to recruit elite talent on defense. See guys like Jadeveon Clowney, Stephon Gilmore and Melvin Ingram. Don’t be surprised if Lewis is mentioned with their names in a few years.

Be sure to keep up with recruiting from across the SEC on MrSEC.com’s Recruiting Page.

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Top Five SEC Freshman Defensive Backs

Playing quarterback in the SEC hasn’t looked very fun the last few years.

There are NFL quality defensive linemen to deal with, linebackers faster than some running backs, and playmakers in the secondary ready to take advantage of a signal-caller’s mistakes.

And those defensive backs can make the difference in a tight championship game.

Look at the coverage provided by Alabama’s secondary in last year’s BCS title game. LSU would have struggled to win an SEC championship without Morris Claiborne, Tyrann Mathieu and Eric Reid.

Most of those players are gone from the SEC, but more are on the way.

Here are the top five true freshman defensive backs in the SEC.

1. Landon Collins – Alabama

He arrived in Tuscaloosa looking like he was ready to play in the SEC. Collins has plenty of work to do on the mental side, but he appears to have the natural instincts of an SEC safety. Collins (6-0, 202) has great speed to go with his impressive size. He will wait his turn in Alabama’s talented seconday, but expect Collins to contribute right away for the Crimson Tide. He also has new competition in his own class as talented freshman Eddie Williams recently moved from wide receiver to safety.

2. De’Vante Harris – Texas A&M

The Aggies gave Harris a jersey number (No. 1) that will bring plenty of attention to him. Offenses will be paying attention to him, too. The top freshman cornerback in the SEC, Harris has already shown this fall why he was so highly-touted as a recruit. Harris (5-10, 160) needs to add weight to play in the physical SEC, but his athletic ability is undeniable. Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin will need strong defensive play in the SEC. Harris should be a nice start.

3. Joshua Holsey – Auburn

This freshman cornerback is confident. Holsey has let everyone know he and his classmates will be playing early and often for Auburn this fall. Holsey has seen time at both cornerback spots – as well as the return positions – during fall camp. Holsey (5-11, 188) has good size for a freshman and has shown good awareness for a player only a few weeks into his college career. Expect big things from Holsey as he learns from new defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder.

4. Geno Smith – Alabama

Smith is in line to be the next great Alabama cornerback. He has already received praise from coach Nick Saban, which could be a sign that Smith will be counted on this fall. Smith (6-0, 182) has good size at corner and has shown a nice level of maturity for a freshman in college. Alabama is talented but unproven at cornerback. If the Tide’s returning players struggle early, don’t be surprised to see Smith receiver extra playing time.

5. Brian Poole – Florida

A cornerback prospect as a recruit, Poole recently moved to safety in Florida’s fall camp. Why? Florida is deep at corner and coach Will Muschamp believes Poole is ready to help the Gators now. Poole (5-10, 206) should add versatility to the safety position. He’s physical enough to go make a tackle and solid enough in coverage to line up on a receiver in the slot. Will Poole be a safety his entire career? Maybe. But he’ll likely be making plays no matter where he is.

Be sure to keep up with recruiting from across the SEC on MrSEC.com’s Recruiting Page.

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Top 5 Freshman Tight Ends

Tight ends probably receive the least amount of attention during the recruiting process.

But they’re important. Look at the impact made by Jimmy Graham and Rob Gronkowski at the game’s highest level last season.

Tight end is a position that will likely see more attention in the future. They’ll receive plenty here.

Here are the top five freshman tight ends in the SEC.

1. Kent Taylor – Florida

Taylor has the athleticism to be a star in the SEC. He will have a chance to help Florida’s offense this season with the departure of tight end A.C. Leonard. Taylor (6-5, 220) will need to need add some weight to be more productive at the college level, but he has enough size to walk in and help Florida’s passing game right away. Taylor has all the makings of an NFL tight end.

2. Ricky Parks – Auburn

Parks has already stood out to veterans during the opening of Auburn’s fall camp. He showed up looking like an SEC player. How athletic is Parks? He played quarterback in high school but has the size (6-4, 230) to play tight end right away. Parks’ experience at quarterback should help him grasp the game mentally. If he pays attention to veteran Philip Lutzenkirchen, Parks will catch on quickly.

3. Kurt Freitag – Alabama

He arrived at fall camp looking like he has enough physical ability to help Alabama right away. He won’t have to carry the load at tight end – that job belongs to Michael Williams. Freitag (6-4, 240) will still need to add weight to be a starter at Alabama in the future, but that shouldn’t be a problem. Freitag might not be a star in the SEC, but he should be a perfect fit playing for coach Nick Saban.

4. Justin Meredith – Tennessee

It’s a good thing Meredith enrolled at Tennessee in January. The Vols need help right away at tight end because of the summer dismissal of Cameron Clear. Meredith (6-5, 223) still needs to add weight, and he won’t play if he isn’t healthy (he continues to battle a hamstring injury). But Meredith has good height and is athletic enough to help make plays. Tennessee will be happy it convinced Meredith to switch his commitment from North Carolina.

5. Colin Thompson – Florida

Thompson and Taylor should have Florida fans excited about the Gators’ future at tight end. Thompson (6-4, 255) has the size that Taylor is looking for. Thompson has been battling a foot injury, which could slow the start of his career at Florida. But when he gets going, expect Thompson to help as a blocker and provide the the Gators’ quarterback another option to move the chains. Thompson won’t be a prolific receiver like Taylor, but the two should combine to do big things in Gainesville.

Be sure to keep up with recruiting from across the SEC on MrSEC.com’s Recruiting Page.

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SEC Headlines 8/4/12

1. Here’s a report from Alabama’s practice on Friday.

2. Blake Sims found work at quarterback with the Crimson Tide on Friday.

3. Auburn offensive lineman Eric Mack is away from the team while he works through some issues.

4. Auburn defensive backs coach Willie Martinez discusses his secondary unit.

5. The Tigers won’t have to worry about covering Clemson receiver Sammy Watkins in the opener.

6. Who will be Florida’s recruiting coordinator with Aubrey Hill gone? Try the head coach.

7. The battle continues as Florida looks for its starting quarterback.

8. True freshman John Theus could be Georgia’s answer at right tackle.

9. Bulldogs quarterback Aaron Murray learned from some of the best this summer.

10. Tough loss for Kentucky: cornerback Marcus Caffey is ineligible.

11. Kentucky coach Joker Phillips has banned his team from tweeting.

12. A freshman Kentucky linebackers believes the Wildcats will “shock” some people.

13. Don’t expect LSU players to be banned from the bars anytime soon.

14. Ole Miss linebacker D.T. Shackelford will miss another season because of a knee injury.

15. Receiver Donte Moncrief is Ole Miss’ most important player this season.

16. Missouri offensive tackle Justin Britt suffered a foot injury.

17. Tigers running back Henry Josey believes he could return to play this season.

18. South Carolina players are happy to have star tailback Marcus Lattimore.

19. Tennessee quarterback Tyler Bray needs to make smarter decisions.

20. Here’s a look at Texas A&M as the Aggies have opened up camp.

21. Texas A&M will need strong defensive play as it prepares for the SEC.

22. Could tougher entrance requirements be a problem for schools in the future?

23. Here’s one goal for each of the 14 SEC teams as they prepare for the season.

24. One more: Georgia’s Malcolm Mitchell has been compared to former LSU corner Mo Claiborne.

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SEC Headlines 7/26/12

1. Tennessee quarterback Tyler Bray won’t be charged in a beer bottle throwing incident.

2. Here’s a look at Alabama’s group of wide receivers and tight ends.

3. AL.com has a breakdown of Auburn’s defensive backs.

4. That list doesn’t include Jonathan Rose, who won’t return to Auburn for his sophomore season.

5. The Alabama game will be “crucial” for Arkansas, according to coach John L. Smith.

6. The chances for ex-Georgia DB Chris Sanders to return to the Bulldogs appear to be finished.

7. Georgia’s tight ends are young but talented as they prepare to replace Orson Charles.

8. The Gainesville Sun‘s Pat Dooley believes Florida’s season will come down to the quarterbacks.

9. Florida coach Will Muschamp is “hungry” after losing six games last year.

10. Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin is proud the Aggies have arrived in the SEC.

11. Sumlin has a lot of work to do as his offense prepares for a new system.

12. Mississippi State’s shooting guard was arrested for bringing a BB gun into the dorm.

13. LSU coach Les Miles is ready to get the season started and move on from 2011.

14. Brishen Matthews is the 16th most important player on the Ole Miss football team.

15. Marcus Lattimore and Aaron Murray overrated? This writer doesn’t think so.

16. Arkansas running back Knile Davis is ready to run again in the SEC.

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