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SEC Headlines 3/2/2014

headlines-sun3-150x150SEC Football

1. Big difference with Texas A&M’s defense?  Depth.  Aggies return 18 players who started at least one game last season.

2. High expectations at Georgia for freshmen running backs Sony Michel and Nick Chubb.

3. Could redshirt freshman Riley Ferguson be the man to beat at quarterback for Tennessee?

4. Craig Naivar reportedly next special teams coach at Kentucky. Defensive coordinator at Texas State past three seasons.

5. What about beer and wine sales at neutral site games?

SEC/NFL

6. Texas A&M offensive tackle Jake Matthews on toughest defensive ends in the SEC: “I thought Kony Ealy was really good at Missouri.”

7. Scratched from the NFL Combine, Auburn’s Dee Ford is expected to take part in the Tigers’ Pro Day on Tuesday.

8. The top 32 players in the draft according to seven draft experts. Ten of the players are from the SEC.

SEC Basketball

9. One take on Kentucky’s loss to South Carolina: “This is an embarrassing loss in an embarrassing week.”

10. Pat Dooley: “The problem isn’t that John Calipari is recruiting a bunch of one-and-doners. The problem is that he is recruiting players to come to Kentucky and get ready for the NBA. “

11. Here are some SEC Tournament and tie-breaker scenarios.  Currently in third place, Georgia controls its destiny.

12. Former Tennessee great Dale Ellis had his number retired Saturday. Spoke to team on Friday. “He said you have to have a love for your team.”

Extras

13. Wichita State completes a perfect regular season.  Last two teams do that – the 1991 UNLV team and 1979 Indiana State squad that featured Larry Bird.

14. Eight ranked teams lost to unranked opponents on Saturday.

15. ESPN’s Dan Dakich on referee Ted Valentine: “He’s not even close to a great official.”

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SEC Recruiting Notebook: Florida’s Class Grows By Four

sec-recruiting-notebook-gfxFlorida’s junior day last weekend helped the Gators added four commitments to their class of 2015.

Florida received commitments from the following in-state prospects in the last week: wide receivers Deondre Farrier from Orlando and Tristan Payton from Jacksonville, offensive lineman Tyler Jordan from Jacksonville and linebacker Camrin Knight from Tallahassee.

“It feels great to be a Gator,” Payton told the Orlando Sentinel. “I remember liking Tim Tebow … and Percy Harvin was my favorite.”

Payton has become a favorite receiver of First Coast quarterback De’Andre Johnson, who’s committed to Florida State.

“He’s a ‘Nole,” Payton said of Johnson. “He was proud of me with the decision I made and stuff like that, but he was all in my face talking about, ‘Go Noles.’ But not too much. When I came over here I didn’t have any offers or anything, so he was proud of me  for getting that offer from Florida.”

Florida was the first SEC school to offer Knight, who had already received official invitations from schools such as Cincinnati, Georgia Tech and North Carolina. Florida’s proximity helped the Gators land Knight.

“I chose Florida because it’s close to home,” Knight told Rivals.com. “It’s like two and a half hours away, it’s a nice school, has nice facilities and I like what they are going to do this upcoming season.”

Florida, which has five commitments for the 2015 class, will continue to try to build recruiting momentum before the season begins. Several highly-touted prospects, including quarterback Dwayne Lawson from Tampa, Fla., and receiver Preston Williams from Hampton, Ga., visited Florida recently.

Williams told Rivals he is “100 percent” committed to Tennessee but plans to visit other schools to make sure. Gainesville was the most recent stop.

“It was a great experience,” Williams said of his Florida trip. “I like Florida a lot. They showed me everything. I saw the whole city and I really saw more what they have on campus.”

Lawson liked what he saw when he visited Florida. He told Rivals the Gators and Tennessee are standing out along with Central Florida and Ohio State. All four schools have offered Lawson.

“Those schools really do a good job recruiting me,” he said. “They show me the most love. They message me whenever they have time and they come to my school when they are allowed to.”

Lawson’s decision could come sooner than he originally planned. He said he will likely take unofficial visits to Tennessee, Central Florida and Ohio State before he chooses a school.

“I don’t really know what I should do right now,” Lawson said. “I think I need to talk to my coaches a little bit more about it before I do anything. I was going to wait until National Signing Day, but I don’t think that would be the best idea right now. I know some schools are going to want to know who their guy is.”

 

Sullivan chooses Auburn

Auburn received a commitment last weekend from linebacker Elijah Sullivan from Tucker (Ga.) High School.

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SEC Headlines 2/27/2014

headlines-thuSEC Football

1. Poll results: Only 25 of the nation’s 128 FBS head coaches are in favor of a rule proposal that would slow down the game.

2. Most departing seniors of any SEC East roster?  Tennessee.  South Carolina has the fewest but the most early NFL draft departures.

3. Several changes at the coordinator position for SEC schools - what will the impact be this year?

4. Soaring expectations at Tennessee for this fall?

5. Florida and Florida State extend their annual football series through 2018.

5. Andre Debose – the “next Percy Harvin” - will be a senior at Florida this fall.

6. Georgia freshman quarterback Jacob Park played high school football in South Carolina but was not offered a scholarship by the Gamecocks.

7. Ole Miss guard Aaron Morris and defensive end C.J. Johnson granted redshirt years.

SEC/NFL

8. Tell us how you really feel, Barry.  Switzer on Johnny Manziel:  ”I think he’s an arrogant little prick.” But he loves the way he plays the game.

9. “A fully engaged, fully motivated (Jadeveon) Clowney is the sort of beast that can out-and-out dominate any game in which he plays, even in the NFL. ”

10. Former Auburn tackle Greg Robinson’s mother couldn’t make the trip to the BCS Championship Game because she couldn’t afford it.  ”There’s something wrong with that picture.” Also see Fuzzy Math at the NCAA.

11. Latest USA Today mock draft has Jadeveon Clowney and Greg Robinson going first and second overall.

12. Zach Mettenberger a good fit for the Arizona Cardinals?

13. Defense end Kony Ealy’s profile matches up best with which current NFL players? Paula Deen like Michael Sam?

14. Is the pro future of Auburn quarterback Nick Marshall at another position?  ”I know I can play quarterback.”

15. When you get booted from your team before the season, who hosts the pro day?  ”Agent Chris Turnage said (Chris) Boyd will be healthy enough to fully compete at his pro day workout next month.”

SEC Basketball

16. When it comes to NCAA Tournament chances, is Georgia “the tallest midget in the circus?” An assessment of Georgia’s chances.

17. Ole Miss point guard Derrick Millinghaus received an indefinite suspension before last night’s game against Alabama.

18. Arkansas at Kentucky tonight.  Last time Razorbacks won at Rupp – Nolan Richardson’s 1994 championship team.

19. Arkansas game part of the revenge tour for Kentucky?

20. A plea from Kentucky – bring back Bruce (Pearl).

21. Military family reunited in timeout of Alabama/Ole Miss game.

22. Florida’s Dorian Finney-Smith best sixth man in the country?

23. One take on Missouri: “There is no evident or effective leadership on the floor. There is no apparent chemistry. Players don’t seem to trust one another. The team seems adrift.”

Extras

24. Georgia governor on Confederate battle flag license plates:  ”Hopefully, those who take offense at it will look at the fact that it is a part of a cultural heritage of our state.”

25. Richie Incognito smashes his own Ferrari with a baseball bat.

26. Why was St. Louis Cardinals manager Mike Matheny cleaning the clubhouse toilets?

27. Jeff Gordon and the Pepsi Max crew are at it again…

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Tennessee’s Jones: “We Treat Georgia As A Home State For Us”

gfx-they-said-it4Tennessee enjoyed a recruiting revival earlier this month when the Vols signed what most services considered to be a top 5 class.  Worries about Butch Jones — a Michigan native — being able to recruit in the South were nixed.

As usual, the Volunteers dipped into the state of Georgia for some of their newbies.  Four Peach Staters total signed on with neighboring Tennessee.  Asked by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution about his sales pitch inside the state, Jones said the following:

 

“We treat Georgia as a home state for us.  You look at the proximity from Georgia to the University of Tennessee.  This is home territory for us, and I think we’ve proven we’ve had great success with players from the state of Georgia when you look at players like Jamal Lewis, Inky Johnson, Chuck Smith, Deon Grant and I could go on… Eric Berry and Willie Gault.  You look at the success now with Ja’Wuan James that he’s having in pursuing his goal to play in the NFL.  And Ja’Wuan also has his degree from Tennessee as well.  You look at our past history, the proximity, and we have a tremendous amount of respect for the high school coaches in that state and the produce that they produce.  And they obviously have great players as well.”

 

Kudos to Jones for knowing the names of so many ex-Tennessee Georgia natives.  One wonders if Derek Dooley could have named one.

As we’ve noted on several occasions, the state of Georgia is raided by numerous schools each February.  South Carolina and Auburn snare top prospects from the state.  Alabama has had greater success since Nick Saban opened his football factory.  Pre-Mark Stoops Kentucky targeted Georgia more than it did Ohio.  Vanderbilt has gone into Georgia.  Missouri is trying its best to make inroads with billboards and mailers.

For years, the state boasted only two FBS programs in Georgia and Georgia Tech.  With the amount of talent produced in the state, there were enough top players left over for all those schools mentioned above to pluck a few stars.

Now there is a third — Georgia State.  Sure, GSU is a fledgeling, struggling FBS program now.  But based in Atlanta, the Panthers have the opportunity to improve quickly just as South Florida (Tampa) and Central Florida (Orlando) have done.  Obviously, GSU won’t be on equal recruiting footing with SEC schools anytime soon.  But that does not mean Georgia State won’t be able keep at least one or two Peach State natives at home each February; recruits that might otherwise have left the state.  In 10 years, it will be interesting to see if schools like Auburn, South Carolina and Tennessee are finding it any more difficult to nab Georgians for their own rosters.

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What Are Georgia’s Tourney Chances?

After the season sweep of Missouri, what are Georgia’s chances of making the NCAA Tournament?  A discussion of coach Mark Fox’s team and their surprising season.




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The SEC Might Land 3 In The NCAA Tourney, But Only 2 Deserve To Go

gfx-by-the-numbersThe NCAA Tournament has grown in recent years to a bizarre 68-team format that includes a pair of play-in games for 11- or 12-seeds.  Aside from aiding television viewership, having play-in games for teams not on the extreme outside of the tourney bubble makes zero sense.  Logic suggests those games should be reserved for squads fighting for the 16-seeds, but the networks know that a few big conference teams will provide better ratings for the “First Four” than four games featuring the likes of North Carolina at Winston-Marlboro, Texas Amish University and Eastern Adirondacks State.

That said, no one should be happier about the fact that some big schools can play their way into the dance than the folks in the SEC office.  If not for those play-in games, the Southeastern Conference is looking like a two-bid league at best.  Heck, it should be a two-bid league.

Obviously, the SEC’s bubble teams will be compared to bubble teams from across America, not just against one another.  As of this morning, however, only two SEC squads rank in the top 49 of the all-important RPI.  Missouri’s loss to Georgia dropped the Tigers to #50.  Tennessee ranks 56th, LSU 68th and everyone else is ranked 70th (Arkansas) or worse.

Using the NCAA’s official RPI from the past three Selection Sundays (since the field expanded to 68), we’ve found the following to be true:

 

*  There were 31 automatic bids and 37 at-large bids into the 2011, 2012 and 2013 tournaments.  (This year there will be 32 automatic bids and just 36 at-large bids.)

*  Of the 111 at-large bids awarded over the last three years, 82 have gone to teams ranked between 1 and 39 in RPI.

*  Of those same 111 at-large bids, just 15 have gone to teams ranked between 40 and 49.

*  Of those 111 at-large bids, only 11 have gone to teams ranked between 50 and 59.

*  And only three bids have gone to squads ranked 60 or higher.

 

From a percentage point of view, teams ranked in the top 39 of the RPI on Selection Sunday have taken up 73.8% of the at-large bids.  Only 13.5% have gone to teams ranked between 40 and 49.  Just 9.9% have gone to teams ranked between 50 and 59.  Only 2.7% of the at-large bids the last three years have gone to teams ranked 60 or higher in the RPI.

That tells us that as of today, Missouri and Tennessee would likely stand about a 10% chance of making the field.  And since neither of those squads have league records over the .500 mark in an SEC currently ranked as just the seventh best league, 10% might be pushing it.

However you slice it — by the numbers or via “the eye test” — only Florida and Kentucky appear NCAA-worthy as of today.  Can Missouri or Tennessee do enough over the final two weeks and the SEC Tournament to improve their chances?  Sure.  But from what we’ve seen of them, what gives anyone the confidence that they will take advantage of those opportunities?

It’s certainly fitting that Mizzou’s damaging loss last night came to Georgia.  The Bulldogs, as we’ve noted on several occasions, expose all that’s wrong with SEC hoops this season.  UGA went just 6-6 in non-conference play and they’ve lost four games to teams outside the RPI top 100.  Yet they now stand firmly in the third place in the SEC with a gaudy 10-5 mark (which should cool the seat from underneath Mark Fox’s rear).

The Southeastern Conference is a bad basketball conference yet again this season.  It appears to get worse with each game played.  And looking at the numbers, there’s just a 10% or so chance — as of today — that the league will receive a third at-large NCAA Tournament bid.

So thank goodness for those play-in games.  Without them, the SEC’s odds for grabbing a third invitation would be even longer.

 

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SEC Hoops Roundup 2/26/2014

gfx-hoops-round-up2Florida 57 – Vanderbilt 54. Video Highlights

1. No. 1 Gators survive challenge at Vanderbilt.  Florida clinches share of regular season SEC title with 20th straight win behind team-high 19 points from Dorian Finney-Smith.

2. “This is a different team with a different feel, a grinding, blue-collar group that wins with defense and resolve. “

3. Vanderbilt coach Kevin Stallings: “The game came down to one or two possessions, and (Florida was) able to make the plays they needed to make.”

Georgia 71 – Missouri 56. Video Highlights

4. With victory, Georgia ensures it will finish above .500 in league play – something only five other Georgia teams have accomplished in past 26 years. Charles Mann led the Bulldogs with 19 points.

5. Did Mizzou’s NCAA bubble just pop?  Guards Jabari Brown and Jordan Clarkson combined to make just nine of 29 shots and turned the ball over seven times.

Wednesday SEC Hoops Schedule

Texas A&M at LSU

Alabama at Ole Miss

Tennessee at Mississippi State

South Carolina at Auburn

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Georgia 71 – Missouri 56

Video highlights of the Georgia 71-56 win over Missouri Tuesday night in Athens.

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Top Five Running Back Signees For 2014

This was a difficult group to rank.

The SEC signed some of the nation’s top talent at running back, which is expected to happen each year. The 2014 class is no different.

The biggest upset of the list: Alabama isn’t represented. That doesn’t mean the Crimson Tide failed to sign a top back. Bo Scarbrough is one of the nation’s best and should make a big impact at Alabama.

His absence here shows the strength of the SEC’s 2014 running back class.

Here are the top five running back signees in the SEC in the 2014 class.

1. Leonard Fournette – LSU

Fournette (6-1, 224) is already talking about winning the Heisman Trophy his freshman season at LSU. He also mentioned the national championship as a goal for year one. Those are high expectations for a guy who’s still in high school, but there’s a reason he believes it. The hype surrounding Fournette has exploded. With Jeremy Hill gone to the NFL, Fournette will have a chance to start at LSU right away. He expects it to happen.

2. Sony Michel – Georgia

Michel has it all. He has size (5-10, 205) to go with his speed, which makes him a dangerous threat every time he touches the ball. Michel will have a chance to help Georgia right away. Todd Gurley will return for his junior year, but Keith Marshall is still recovering from a knee injury. Gurley won’t be able to do it all by himself.

3. Roc Thomas – Auburn

Thomas seems like the perfect replacement for Tre Mason, who left Auburn early for the NFL draft. Thomas (5-11, 202) is a big-play talent who will be able to help the Tigers as a runner and receiver. Auburn made a move for Thomas before in-state rival Alabama did. The move paid off for the Tigers.

4. Jalen Hurd – Tennessee

Did you see Derrick Henry against Oklahoma in the Sugar Bowl? Tennessee hopes Hurd (6-3, 227) can run like Henry (6-3, 238) from day one. Hurd enrolled early at Tennessee and will battle for the starting position this fall. He should be the home run back Tennessee’s offense has lacked in recent years.

5. Nick Chubb – Georgia

Chubb (5-10, 215) already looks like an SEC running back. He’ll have plenty of competition when he arrives on campus thanks to the Georgia running backs mentioned above. But Chubb has plenty of ability and at the very least can help the Bulldogs fight for tough yards. He has everything needed to be an every-down back in the SEC.

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Considering What They’re Up Against, Kudos To Ole Miss’ Freeze And Kennedy

gfx-honest-opinionI remove my hat and tip it Ole Miss coaches Hugh Freeze and Andy Kennedy.  Those guys must be world-class salesmen.  Considering the history at their school — and the never-ending string of reminders of that history — it’s dadgum incredible that they can recruit African-American males to play for their respective squads.

You know the latest story by now, of course.  Last Sunday a statue of James Meredith — the first black student at the University of Mississippi — was found to have a noose around its neck and an old Georgia state flag — complete with the Confederate battle flag — draped over it.  Meredith rose to fame when the federal government stepped in to protect him as it pushed for the desegregation the school in 1962.

Three freshman from the Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity — who happened to be Georgia natives — were booted from the fraternity before the the frat itself was suspended by it national office.  The three buffoons could face some very serious, life-altering charges if the FBI views that noose as a racial threat against black students on the Ole Miss campus.

The incident made national news from The LA Times to The New York Times.  Back came reminders of the National Guard, Governor Ross Barnett, the race riots that took place in Oxford at the time of Meredith’s enrollment.  (ESPN recently chronicled that episode in a “30 for 30″ special titled “Ghosts of Ole Miss.”)

After the long list of UM controversies come the inevitable reminders of what Ole Miss has tried to do to improve matters on its campus: no more Confederate flags at ballgames, no more Colonel Reb mascot, no more “From Dixie With Love” with its chant of “The South will rise again” before football games.

But as an editorial in The Daily Mississippian — UM’s student newspaper — stated last week, nothing seems to work:

 

“This is disgraceful.  But what makes it all the worse is that it is another disgraceful moment in a series of disgraceful moments.  We are racking them up and bolstering the stereotypes that are ingrained within the national consciousness.  And we, The Daily Mississippian, continue to write editorials about them.  The campus continues to hold candlelight vigils.  The administration continues to create committees, send apologetic emails and preach to us about our Creed.  The Alumni Association offers rewards.

But still nothing has changed.  These events continue to happen semester after semester and year after year.  All of our actions seem fruitless and impotent, leaving us broken, scared, humiliated and with burning, difficult questions: What do we do about it?  How do we stop these events from transpiring?”

 

Rather damning — and bravely honest — from the school’s newspaper, no?

Fair or not, the University of Mississippi’s history is tied to racism.  The Confederacy’s economy — everything about the Old South, for that matter — was based on slavery.  Yet the school’s athletic teams are called the Rebels in a reference to the Confederate States of America.  The school’s athletic teams often wear gray in addition to their red and navy colors.  Hell, the statue of Meredith isn’t far from a memorial to Confederate soldiers on the UM campus.

It is impossible to separate the school or its sports teams from the Confederacy and the racism that was ingrained in that institution.

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