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SEC Headlines 2/26/13

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1. Florida is expecting another tough road test when it plays at Tennessee tonight.

2. Tennessee is hoping its “Make a Statement” motto will show up tonight against Florida.

3. Florida is still a top 5 team in ESPN’s power rankings despite last week’s loss at Missouri.

4. Auburn is desperate to win as it prepares for a rematch against rival Alabama.

5. Kentucky has plenty of young talent, but senior Julius Mays has been a valuable asset.

6. One of UK’s talented freshman, guard Archie Goodwin, is showing signs of maturity.

7. Mississippi State coach Rick Ray needs his players to keep buying in despite their continuing struggles.

8. Missouri is “probably in” the NCAA tournament right now, according to CBSSports.com.

9. Patience has helped LSU forward Johnny O’Bryant, who helped lead the Tigers past Alabama on Saturday.

10. Seth Emerson provides some basketball notes from around the SEC.

SEC Football

11. New Arkansas offensive line coach Sam Pittman received a pay bump after Alabama came calling.

12. Tennessee tried to offer a $40,000 raise to running backs coach Jay Graham, who’s leaving for Florida State.

13. Graham was more than a running backs coach for Tennessee, writes John Adams.

14. The SEC is still chasing Alabama as spring practice begins, writes Chris Low.

15. What’s the top coaching job in the SEC? Not Alabama, according to Athlon Sports.

16. Here’s a spring preview for Georgia’s offense, which will open practice on Saturday.

17. South Carolina will be a national title contender this fall, writes Barrett Sallee.

18. No surprise: Texas A&M QB Johnny Manziel is the SEC’s top player, according to ESPN.

NFL Scouting Combine

19. Push through the pain or wait for Pro Day? Alabama and Auburn players have weighed that question.

20. Former LSU defensive back Tyrann Mathieu is trying to be the best he can be as a pro.

21. Former Georgia linebacker Cornelius Washington was among the fastest players at his position.

22. Missouri’s Zaviar Gooden was the fastest linebacker, running a 4.47 40-yard dash on Monday.

23. Former Texas A&M running back Christine Michael has impressed at the Combine.

Extra

24. Why did Manti Te’o run a disappointing 40 time on Monday? Stress, according to Te’o.

25. Did QB Matt Barkley struggle last year at Southern California because of bad coaching?

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No One’s Showing A Lack Of Respect For Auburn

Boy, there’s one storyline that’s already getting old when it comes to the 2011 SEC season.  As ESPN put it today: “Historic lack of respect for Auburn in polls.”

Ugh.

Chris Low does a great job and he’s certainly not alone in suggesting AU is getting cold-shouldered by pollsters — you can bet Gene Chizik and his aides are making that point to their players, too — but unfortunately that argument just isn’t true.

Sure, Auburn’s #23 ranking in the AP poll marks the first time in 20 years that a defending national champion hasn’t started the following season in the Top 10.  The horror.

But let’s look at the facts:

1.  You’d be hard-pressed to find another national titlist in that span whose success was so much attributable to one great player.  We’re not saying Cam Newton was the whole Auburn team, but how many of those close games would the Tigers have won last year without him?  For the record, seven of AU’s 14 wins were by determined by eight points or less.

2.  Newton isn’t around this year and the top two guys on the quarterback depth chart aren’t dual-threat guys like Newton (who actually led the SEC in rushing last season).  That’s really going to change the way Gus Malzahn calls plays.

3.  The Tigers also lost Nick Fairley, their most disruptive, dominant player on the defensive side of the ball.

4.  And Auburn lost 16 starters total from last year’s squad.  Those 16 slots will be filled — in most cases — by players who have little experience or by true freshmen who have none.

5.  Finally, AU’s schedule this season is much tougher than it was a year ago with road trips planned for Clemson, South Carolina, Arkansas, LSU and Georgia.  Toss in Mississippi State, Florida and Alabama for good measure at home.

Put Newton or Fairley of half of those lost starters back on Auburn’s squad and they would likely be smack dab in the Top 10.  Flip-flop this year’s schedule for last year’s and the Tigers would likely be getting more love from the voters, too.

But as it stands, there haven’t been many national champions in the last 20 years that have been so unproven going into the following season.

And let’s not forget that Texas’ precipitous fall from grace last season (from the BCS championship game to 5-7) is still fresh on pollsters’ minds as well.  They now know that the logo on the helmet doesn’t always offset the departure of a gaggle of stars.

We at MrSEC.com expect Auburn coaches, players and fans to talk about how the Plainsmen are being disrespected.  By year’s end, they may be proven right.

But in August, looking at that schedule and all the uncertainty in that Tigers’ line-up, AU’s preseason ranking isn’t a story of disrespect.  It’s the story of playing the odds.  And no one should have to apologize for simply playing the odds.

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Malzahn’s Name Already Connected To UNC Opening

In addition to messageboard posters and Bleacher Reports bloggers, the scribes at ESPN are among the first to connect Auburn offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn to the now vacant head coaching job at North Carolina.

Bruce Feldman put together a list of six hot candidates for the job and Malzahn’s name is at the top.  (Feldman’s list is viewable by subscription only, but Chris Low gives an overview.

UNC will go through the 2011 season with an interim leader, so you can bet Tar Heel fans will keep an eye toward Auburn’s rebuilt offense this fall.  If Malzahn’s system can put up big numbers after losing Cam Newton and a talented offensive line, there’s no question he’ll be able to write his own check — if he decides to — by season’s end.

Also on Feldman’s list of UNC possibilities: Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart.

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Malzahn: We Don’t Run “The Spread”

Don’t tell Auburn offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn that he’s running a spread offense.  Oh, sure, he’s got folks spread all over the field and the Tigers do work out of a shotgun, but it’s not a spread.

“We’re a two-back, run, play-action team with an emphasis on going fast and throwing the ball vertically down the field,” Malzahn said to ESPN.com.  “We go from the shotgun, which probably people think is the spread.  But we’ve got to run the football.  We have to run the football to be successful to open up the pass.”

“The spread, for whatever reason, a lot of people characterize that as throw to open up the run.  We’re completely different.”

For some reason, Malzahn has never liked having his offense referred to as a spread… as if all spread offenses are pass-first offenses.  That certainly wasn’t the case with Urban Meyer’s run-first spread offense at Florida.

Way back in April of 2009, Malzahn said: “A lot of people characterize what we do as a spread offense because we’ve been so efficient (at Tulsa) throwing the ball.  But everything we do starts with the run.”

Gene Chizik said at the time: “I think that’s kind of been the misnomer about his offense.  You can categorize it however you want.  But one of the first things out of Gus’ mouth each day is the need for physicality.  People can categorize the spread however they want, but at the end of the day, it’s going to be ‘Tailback U’ with a great vertical passing game.”

Clearly, whether Malzahn wants it called a spread or not, his offense has clicked in 2010.  And according to Chris Low of ESPN, the coach has never paid much attention to those folks who said his offense wouldn’t work in the SEC.

“I guess when you’re a high school coach and you come into college, you’re going to get questioned on everything you do,” Malzahn said.  “But you just can’t get wrapped up in that.  You’ve got to believe in what you do.  You can’t listen to outside things.”

True enough.  But you can count me as someone who still wonders if Malzahn’s offense will work long-term in the SEC.

People questioned Meyer’s offense when he came to Florida.  In his first season, he went 9-3 in Gainesville.  Then a fellow named Tim Tebow popped up and the Gators went 48-7 with two national title belts over the next four seasons.  Meyer’s offense was deemed a success.  But the Gators fell back to 8-5 after Tebow’s graduation.  The offense was a mess.

Last year, Malzahn’s offense started hot before the Tigers dropped five of their last six SEC games.  They scored 23, 14, 10, 33, 24, and 21 in consecutive league games.  That’s not exactly the kind of production we’ve seen from Cam Newton and company this year.

Auburn fans won’t like it, but we at MrSEC have instructed the jury to do a little bit more deliberating on Malzahn’s spre… sorry… Malzahn’s offense.

We bought into Meyer’s offense only to learn later that Tebow made the offense, not vice versa.  And we all might wind up saying the same thing about Newton and Malzahn’s offense after this season.

I believe former President Bush summed up my feelings best…



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South Carolina season recap by Chris Low at ESPN.com

 

 

Auburn OC Gus Malzahn at Top of List to Replace Caldwell

Vanderbilt
Content provided by Vanderbilt Sports Line.

So reports Chris Low. Who knows if it will happen, but I love the way we’re thinking. Malzahn would be a huge coup. Huge.

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Chris Low: "Hogs looking for season-defining win"

Arkansas
Content provided by Razorback Expats.

Chris Low: “Hogs looking for season-defining win”

ESPN.com’s Chris Low says the LSU game will define the way Arkansas fans remember this season. We agree 100%.

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Doctoring comes natural for Stokes

by Chris Low, ESPN.com – John Stokes’ football career is winding to a close, but he’s about to embark on another much more important career.
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ESPN.com: Doctoring comes natural for Stokes

by Chris Low, ESPN.com – John Stokes’ football career is winding to a close, but he’s about to embark on another much more important career.
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SEC: Masoli-Newton to be a quarterback showcase

Kentucky
Content provided by John Clay’s Sidelines.

(AP photo)

(AP photo)

SEC links for Friday:

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