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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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Decision On FSU QB Winston Coming Soon, Heisman Watchers Hold Breath

jameis-winstonWe’re not big fans of the Heisman Trophy here at MrSEC.com.  As we’ve spelled out many times, the criteria for winning the overhyped award change from year to year and from voter to voter.  Peyton Manning loses out to Charles Woodson, then Champ Bailey puts up better numbers than Woodson and doesn’t come close to winning.  It’s a nonsense honor.

That said, many of you care a great deal about the Heisman.  No clue why, but you do.  So those of you who are interested should keep your ears open this afternoon.  The State Attorney of Florida will hold a press conference at 2 o’clock today to announce whether or not Florida State quarterback — and Heisman favorite — Jameis Winston will be charged with sexual assault.

Winston’s troubles began on December 7th of 2012 when he had sexual relations with a female FSU student.  He says the sex as consensual.  The young woman told police that she had been raped.  While the State Attorney’s decision will have a massive impact on the lives of both the accuser and the accused, today’s press conference will also affect the Heisman race.

If Winston is charged with sexual assault, you can be sure he will not win the Heisman Trophy, despite the fact that he’s the heavy favorite.  But just having his name attached to such a crime might have already cost him several votes — innocent or not.

The online betting site Bovada.com lists Northern Illinois quarterback Jordan Lynch (5-1), Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller (12-1) and Alabama signal-caller AJ McCarron (15-1) as the three most likely to take home the award should Winston (1-10 odds) not land it.

Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel is no longer listed as a candidate by Bovada.

 

(UPDATEWinston will not be charged with sexual assault.)

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A&M Downplays The Value Of Manziel’s Heisman, But The School Sure Has A Lot Of Heisman Gear For Sale

manzieltimes+squareLast December, Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel capped off his riches-to-more-riches meteoric rise by winning the Heisman Trophy.  But according to the school, having its QB win the award didn’t result in much of a cash windfall at all.  In fact, A&M claims it made only about $20,000 off Manziel’s victory.

Bull.  Sorry, we’re not buying that one.

The school says its tickets for the 2013 season were already sold out and its radio, TV and sponsorship deals were pretty much locked in, too.  Bloomberg.com reports that the school claims booster donations were tied to those seat purchases, not to Manziel winning the Heisman.  And that $20,000 includes a portion of the team’s $60,000 in royalties from jersey sales, too.

Additionally, the folks in College Station downplay the value of the media exposure provided by Johnny Football’s win.  AD Eric Hyman says the school’s conference swap was worth more than last December’s Heisman:

 

“People draw the conclusion that we make millions from Johnny winning the Heisman.  I’d say we’ve gotten more financial benefit from joining what’s widely perceived as the best football conference in the country and having a winning program.”

 

Well, no kidding.  But that’s like saying Peyton Manning’s new Papa John’s business dealings really aren’t worth much compared to his football money.  Yes, football has paid him millions upon millions, but there’s value in his Papa John’s venture as well.  It’s not nothing.

Hyman goes so far as to tell Bloomberg.com that the Heisman probably didn’t convince anyone to go to A&M.  More impactful was Kevin Sumlin’s up-tempo offense, the Aggies’ success on the field, and the opportunity to play in the SEC.

There have been rumors and reports of bad blood existing between Family Manziel and Texas A&M.  Hyman’s decision to downplay the value of Manziel’s Heisman win from every conceivable angle is so out of the ordinary as to draw attention back to the perceived rift between Manziel’s parents and the school.

And Hyman isn’t the only member of the Aggie brass saying that Manziel’s trophy was pretty much worthless.  A&M chief financial officer, Jeff Toole, had this to say about ticket sales: “If we had an 11-2 season, won the Cotton Bowl and he finished third, we’d be doing just as well because we already sold everything.”

The man behind TAMU’s campaign to raise funds for Kyle Field’s renovation, Mark Klemm, says Manziel’s trophy didn’t help that cash drive one bit: “You can’t remotely say that.  The planning for the stadium started before we joined the SEC and before Johnny Manziel became our starting quarterback.  It was just an amazing coincidence of timing.”

OK, OK.  We get it.  Manziel’s Heisman has been worth bupkes to the school.  Just a big ol’ nuthin’ that didn’t help recruiting, didn’t provide added exposure for the school, didn’t increase fan interest, and only brought in 20-thousand bucks.  Got it.

Knowing that, it seems some A&M boosters should be pretty ticked right now.  See, if there was so little value to Manziel’s Heisman win, the school shouldn’t have spent up to $500,000 on Manziel’s pre- and post-Heisman campaign.  The school shouldn’t have wasted money on a Times Square billboard.  The school shouldn’t have blown cash by placing more than 400 other billboards referencing Manziel’s win all across the country.  The school shouldn’t have bought congratulatory ads on ESPN.com, SI.com and USAToday.com.

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ESPN’s McShay Says Carolina’s Clowney “At A Different Level” From Other Players

jadeveon-clowney-helmet-off-meanSouth Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney entered the 2013 season as a long shot Heisman candidate.  Now, three weeks of football in the books, he’s faced questions about his effort, his conditioning, and his injured foot (which will require surgery to repair bone spurs after the season).

Readers of this site know that we believe Clowney has played just fine.  It’s the hype that got out of control.  All offseason, we were force-fed  video of Clowney’s game-changing tackle/forced fumble/fumble recovery versus Michigan in the Outback Bowl.  It was an incredible play.  It was one of only a few big plays he made that day.

And that’s the rub when it comes to pushing defensive linemen for the Heisman Trophy.  Quarterbacks and running backs and receivers make numerous highlight-worthy plays per game.  Defensive linemen?  And end like Clowney has had a great day if he records a pair of sacks.  So when the camera is on him for 60 minutes each Saturday, there are going to be a lot of plays that won’t wow the masses.

In Clowney’s case, though, he’s still wowing the NFL draft analysts like ESPN’s Todd McShay.  The man brought in to mix it up with Mel Kiper believes Clowney will still be the top player chosen in next year’s draft, so long as the team picking first isn’t desperate for a quarterback:

 

“Clowney’s at a different level than everybody else physically and he’s playing a little bit harder than people are giving him credit for.”

 

Through three games, Clowney has recorded two sacks for 16 yards.  Only two SEC players — Kentucky’s Za’Darius Smith and Arkansas’ Chris Smith — have more.  Clowney has three tackles for loss to his credit so far, plus one forced fumble.

Considering the fact that every team the Gamecocks face tries to go in whichever direction he is not, Clowney’s “disappointing” start to the season has been greatly overblown.

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Texas QB Talks Texas A&M’s Manziel, But The Coverage Doesn’t Match His Comments

gfx - they said itTexas quarterback David Ash is apparently the polar opposite of his counterpart at Texas A&M, Johnny Manziel.  According to The Houston Chronicle, Ash was “raised in a strict religious household, he grew up without TV, he claims to have never had a sip of an alcoholic beverage, he doesn’t tweet, and he doesn’t even go to the movies, much less party with rap stars.”

Asked earlier this week if he was happy he didn’t have to worry about off-field troubles — like the NCAA’s investigation into Manziel’s proclivity for signing autographs for brokers – the Longhorn quarterback had this to say:

 

“That a tough question.  But, you know, my answer is ‘By the grace of God.’  I don’t know Johnny Manziel personally, but I do know that college football players are regular people, and they have their problems, just like everbody else.  And Johnny Manziel, he seems to be a nice guy.  There’s a lot of pressure, a lot of things that can go wrong in your life.  And probably not very many people are interested to know what that is, or what’s going on.  Johnny, I just wish him the best.  He’s a great football player.

For me, it’s only by the grace of God I haven’t taken that path.  I’ve been blessed with great parents.  I’ve been blessed with a great community in Austin.  I have my problems, just like Johnny Manziel.  Somehow, I keep them from you guys.”

 

Well, for starters, he doesn’t share his every move and every thought on Twitter which is a pretty good way to keep one’s problems to one’s self.

That said, the headline to The Chronicle’s piece regarding Ash’s comment is “UT’s Ash on Manziel: ‘It’s only be the grace of God I haven’t taken that path.”  The writer of the brief story then opened the article by pointing out that Ash “has never even come close to winning a Heisman Trophy” and he’s never quarterbacked a top 10 team or beaten a top-ranked team.  Then came the quotes from Ash.

Sorry, but I think the young man was trying to be gracious when asked about Manziel, a fellow athlete.  He explained that the spotlight can be difficult, wished the Aggie star the best, complemented him, and then said, basically, that he’s glad he hasn’t found himself in the same boat.

So for the headline writer to seize on the only portion of the quote that could possibly be taken out of context is a bit of a low blow.  That one line might not have been Ash’s best choice of words, but it obviously didn’t capture the spirit of what he was attempting to say, either.

Aggies and Longhorns hate one another.  We all know that.  But there’s no reason for A&M fans to get upset over this one.  No matter how much The Chronicle headline attempts to rile them up.

 

CORRECTION – We initially listed Chris Ash as David Ash.  Hopefully correcting this error will put the Earth back on its axis.

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Manziel Talks Manning Camp, Twitter, Scrutiny And The Upcoming Season

gfx - they said itTexas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel — obviously the sensation of this year’s SEC Media Days — just sat down with a large media group.  Here’s how it went down:

 

*  The scrutiny of him has been “blown a little bit out of proportion.”  Manziel said he’s still trying to live his life and “hopefully that won’t upset too many people.”

*  How do you think defenses will challenge you this year?  “Maybe bring some more blitzes.  I haven’t really thought that much about it.”  (That might concern an Aggie fan or two.)

*  Manziel said he and his teammates earned the right to have some fun this offseason.

*  “I never realized the magnitude of (the scrutiny)… You don’t really understand until you go through it and deal with it.”  Manziel said no one knew what was coming in terms of media scrutiny, not him, not Kevin Sumlin and not the A&M athletic department.

*  He reiterated that he was simply tired at the Manning Passing Academy and that his departure had nothing to do with what happened the night before.

*  He said again that he was not asked to leave the camp.  Manziel called it a “mutual decision.”

*  Kevin Sumlin made it clear less than an hour ago that his “discussion” with Manziel resulted in the QB dropping off the social media site.  Manziel was asked about why he hasn’t tweeted in a month and he sure didn’t mention any discussion with his head coach: “I guess I haven’t said anything lately because I really haven’t had anything interesting to say.”

*  Asked how he needs to change, Manziel said that “he’s continuing to learn.”

*  “Football is football,” and Manziel said his offseason activities won’t impact his play on the field this year.

 

Once again, Texas A&M’s quarterback seemed relaxed and self-assured while staring down a host of media members.  “I love talking to y’all.  There’s nothing wrong with this.  It’s just another day.”

The difference between the Manziel who sits down with the media and the Manziel who is his own worst enemy when it comes to offseason antics is enormous.  Manziel, today, has come across as he did all last season and at the Heisman Trophy presentation — as a young man fans can enjoy rooting for.

But who is the real Manziel?  The guy who handed multiple fake IDs to cops and tweeted that he “can’t wait to leave College Station” or the guy who’s focused on football and realizes that to some extent he’s brought a lot of this scrutiny on himself?

If it’s the latter, A&M might have another fantastic season.  If it’s the former, no one should be surprised if Manziel some how, some way creates an off-field distraction for himself and his team in the next few months.

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New York Times: 34% Of Florida’s 2008 Team Have Been Arrested

Urban Meyer lookThe New York Times becomes the latest media outlet to scrutinize the Florida Gators in the Urban Meyer years in the wake of the Aaron Hernandez murder investigation. As the Times points out, much has been made of the often cited statistic of 31 arrests during the Meyer era in Gainesville from 2005 to 2010.  The paper zeroed in on the 2008 roster and produced an even larger number when arrests after college are included.

 

A roster on the university’s Web site lists 121 players, 41 of whom have been arrested, either in college or afterward, and sometimes both. That number included 16 players on that season’s final two-deep roster, nine of whom were starters, as well as a kicker, punter and returner. Several of those players went on to the N.F.L., and one, Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton, later won the Heisman Trophy playing for Auburn.

 

41 of 121 players means 34% of that team has an arrest record.  The Times points out that  ”most of the cases never went to trial, the charges having been dropped or pleaded down.” You can view the 2008 Florida Gators roster here. The Times asked the Gainesville police department for a comparison of the arrest rate for football players during the Meyer years compared with the general arrest rate for Florida students.  According to the paper, the spokesman says the numbers would be difficult to compare.

Responding to critics that he didn’t do enough to discipline or help Hernandez, Meyer said yesterday “relating or blaming these serious charges to Univ. of Florida, myself or our staff is wrong and irresponsible.” A Q and A with Meyer is posted today at the Columbus Dispatch website.

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Finebaum On Manziel: “He’s Trending Towards Becoming A Punch Line”

gfx - they said itNew ESPN personality Paul Finebaum didn’t mince words during an appearance on the network yesterday.  Asked to weigh in on The Johnny Manziel Offseason Circus, the longtime radio host had this to say:

 

“I’m sad to say, I think he’s trending towards becoming a punch line.  I hate to say that because I think all of us are fans of Johnny Manziel.  You can’t help but be, and you want the best for him, but there have been too many instances from him…

When you say what he did the other day.  When you say, ‘Walk in my shoes’ and you’re the Heisman Trophy winner and you have the world in front of you, that’s unacceptable.  We’re reasonable people here.  You can look past a lot of silly things, but I’m having a hard time looking past that.

Manziel is likeable, but Manziel is becoming less likeable every day.”

 

And that’s really the heart of it, isn’t it?  Last season, the redshirt freshman who was recruited to Texas to play safety (according to Will Muschamp) became the most electrifying quarterback in the country and a hero at Texas A&M.  His on-field exploits wowed fans across the SEC and the nation.

But now his off-field exploits and tweets are quickly turning him into a guy who fans will heartily root against.

If Kevin Sumlin is smart, he’ll make Twitter and other social media outlets off-limits to his star quarterback.  Manziel hasn’t shown that he can use those tools responsibly.

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WOW Headlines – 6/19/13

First-year coaches Mark Stoops and Butch Jones have Kentucky and Tennessee, respectively, ranked No. 1 and No. 3 in the country in recruiting
Report: Texas A&M QB Johnny Manziel might have transferred last summer had a suspension for an arrest not been overturned
NFL Scout Gil Brandt lists Alabama QB AJ McCarron as his Heisman Trophy favorite for 2013
Ole Miss has been granted NCAA permission to monitor the progress of QB Bo Wallace this summer as he rehabs from shoulder surgery
Florida G Michael Frazier and Tennessee F Jarnell Stokes have made the USA 19-under team
Former Alabama G Trevor Lacy is transferring to NC State
Keep up with SEC football and basketball at MrSEC.com and twitter.com/mrsec

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Source: Manziel – Suspended Before The 2012 Season – Nearly Transferred From A&M

johnny-manziel-holds-ball-smilesHere’s one for you fans of alternate history novels.  If Johnny Manziel hadn’t been quarterbacking Texas A&M last year, would the Aggies have had any chance of going 11-2?  Would A&M be recruiting quite so well right now?  Would Aggie fans have been as happy with their SEC move had their team suffered through a .500-ish season (as most had predicted last summer)?  Would the Aggies have upset Alabama in Tuscaloosa?  Would the Heisman Trophy ever go to a freshman?  Heck, who would have been sitting courtside at all those NBA games and throwing out all those first pitches at baseball games this offseason?

And so on.

Well, according to a source speaking with SportsDay, a website run by The Dallas Morning News, that alternate reality almost became plain ol’ reality last offseason.  Over the summer of 2012, Manziel was arrested in College Station’s bar district.  He was initially suspended by TAMU and “would have felt it was necessary to transfer” had the suspension not been overturned on appeal.  The athletic department had nothing to do with the suspension or its reversal.  According to the paper, it was the dean of student life who ruled in the quarterback’s favor.

The arrest has been public knowledge.  The supension/transfer/reversal is the new information.  Head coach Kevin Sumlin has said that he wound up imposing his own discipline on the QB for the arrest.

Manziel was arrested for misdemeanors of fighting, failure to identify and possession of fake IDs last June 29th.

Fans being fans, we’re certain many an Aggie-backer will convince himself that A&M would have been just fine without Manziel.  But the reality is — if the source is correct — Texas A&M was thisclose to entering the 2012 season without the player who wound up taking the college football world by storm.  And it’s unlikely the Aggies’ entry into the SEC would have gone near as smoothly without him.

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