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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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Georgia WR Bennett Could Return After Surgery; Richt “Grumpy” Over Injury Talk

red-cross-logoGlass half full or glass half empty?

Georgia receiver Michael Bennett — one of a pack of Dawgs to be injured at Tennessee last Saturday — has undergone surgery for a torn meniscus in his right knee.  There is no official timetable for his return, but it is expected that he can be back in action in a matter of weeks.

UGA has already lost receivers Malcolm Mitchell and Justin Scott-Wesley for the season due to knee injuries.  Bennett missed all of last season with a torn ACL.  While the Bulldogs will have to play without their top three wideouts for sometime, at least one of the three is expected to return.  At some point.

With running back Keith Marshall done for the year and starting running back Todd Gurley dealing with an ankle sprain, coach Mark Richt has been peppered with questions about ailments and his depth chart.  Yesterday on WSB-AM radio in Atlanta, the top dog barked:

 

“Well, you know, I’m tired about talking about the injury report.  That’s all everybody talks about.  We need to talk about who’s healthy.  We need to talk about who’s going to play in this ballgame (against Missouri).  We’re sorry for the guys that got hurt and I’m sure they can figure it out on the internet.  It’s time to talk about the next man getting his opportunity and play well and certainly loving up the guys who got hurt.  If we want to talk about it all week, I’m going to stop it now.”

 

Richt later apologized on Twitter “about being grumpy.”

It seems clear that Georgia’s coach doesn’t want Georgia’s healthy backups — who’ll now be thrust into action — to hear too much of the “Well, the Dawgs are doomed now” talk.

Good luck with that one, Coach.

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Georgia RB Gurley “Day-To-Day” With Bum Ankle

gfx - they said itTodd Gurley is the #3 rusher in the SEC after the season’s first five weeks.  He’s tallying 112.5 yards per game and reeling off runs at a 6.34 yards-per-carry clip.

He also hurt his ankle against LSU, missed the second half of Saturday’s Bulldog win, and is hit or miss to play at Tennessee on Saturday.

Most schools would be worried about losing such a valued commodity for any length of time.  Not Georgia.  The Dawgs just gave more Keith Marshall more touches (20 for 96 yards) against the Tigers.  Moving forward, they’ll also give more reps to freshmen backs Brendan Douglas and JJ Green.

According to Mark Richt:

 

“(Green) did very well (versus LSU) and he’s definitely going to have to have more carries this week.  Douglas will have to have more carries this week, too, if we can’t get Gurley read to go.  We can’t just wait to see what’s going to happen.  So they’re definitely going to get more reps in practice because I don’t see Gurley going full speed Monday or Tuesday.  Like I said, we’ve kind of got to go day-to-day with it.  My guess is Gurley’s going to be limited in practice.  So these guys have to get those reps and be ready to play.”

 

For the year, Marshall has 51 carries for 213 yards (4.18 ypc) and a touchdown.  He also rushed for 160+ and two scores versus Tennessee last year.

Douglas has 11 carries for 39 yards (3.55 ypc) and Green has 5 rushes for 65 yards (13.00 ypc) and a touchdown.

Tennessee ranks 11th in the SEC in rush defense.

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SEC Headlines 8/2/2013

headlines-friSEC Football

1. Junior cornerback Nick Brasell is not academically eligible at Ole Miss.  Coach Hugh Freeze: “We are very disappointed that Nick is no longer a part of our program.”

2. Auburn coach Gus Malzahn turns down the chance to vote in the coaches poll.  ”You can’t blame him. You really should applaud him.”

3. What to think of LSU at No. 13 in the Coaches Poll? “A healthy amount of respect for LSU.” Texas A&M a ranked team apt to flop? “I’m not sure Johnny Football cares about football.”

4. LSU the most likely target of an Arkansas upset?

5. Vanderbilt coach James Franklin has a “chip” on his shoulder.  No, really he does. Defensive end Walker May:  ”We’re still disrespected in the SEC.”

6. Florida quarterback Jeff Driskel says he’s on an accelerated recovery from appendectomy surgery.  “I want to be back as soon as possible.”

7. Expect Gator cornerback Lucheiz Purifoy “to have a full package of plays in the offense.”

8. It’s Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall at running back for Georgia. Forget “Gurshall”… “I don’t like it at all. I just don’t.” Marshall practiced with his left knee wrapped.

9. Georgia freshman wideout  Tramel Terry is coming off a torn ACL  but looked healthy and active in practice. Health is a big question in the Bulldogs receiving corps.

10. The hydrotherapy room is the centerpiece of Alabama’s expanded football facilities.

11. At preseason camp at Alabama, here are five position battles worth watching.

12. In the position battles at Auburn, it’s more than just the quarterback position.

13. Will it be Mike Davis or Brandon Wilds to replace Marcus Lattimore in the South Carolina backfield?

14. Dan Mullen’s message at Mississippi State’s first practice? “Raise the process of getting ready.”

15. A big focus at Missouri - a healthy offensive line. Their secret weapon?  A 12-man offense.

16. Want to be optimistic about Tennessee’s chances this fall?  Here are some reasons why you should.

17. Even if the SEC expands the conference schedule to nine games, don’t expect the Kentucky-Louisville series to end anytime soon.

SEC/College News

18. The U.S. Congress trying to guarantee some four-year scholarships?

19. Collegiate Licensing Company wants to remove four of five current college athletes from the Ed O’Bannon lawsuit.

20. Here are five teams that could break in to the Top 25 by November.

21. Debating the impact of position switches in college football - it can help a player or set him back.

22. Former Auburn running back Michael Dyer is headed to Louisville.

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SEC Headlines 7/7/2013

headlines-sun3-150x150SEC Football

1. Could Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin be the next college coach to jump to the NFL?  ”No one should expect the Sumlin rumors to go away.”

2. Any doubt who’s the most important player at South Carolina? “Clowney is far and away USC’s most talented and disruptive player.”

3. On the field and off, Georgia running backs Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall have distinguished themselves from their predecessors.

4. What kind of team has Mark Stoops inherited at Kentucky? “Simply put: a bad one.”

5. To be successful at Kentucky, Stoops needs to consistently beat four teams.  Three of them are in the SEC.

6. Pat Dooley has Alabama No. 1, Georgia No. 5 in his preseason rankings.

7. Yet another offensive line ranking places Tennessee at the top of the conference.

8. Nick Saban sells an investment property in Georgia.

SEC Basketball

9. Gold medal game today for Billy Donovan’s Junior National Team.

10. Will a renovated Rupp Arena become a wedge issue for Kentucky fans? The “skyboxification of American life.”

11. Vanderbilt rising junior Kedron Johnson is recovering from surgery on his shoulder.

Extras

12. Nearly 1,200 fans exchange their Aaron Hernandez jerseys yesterday.

13. NFL weighs not inviting  ineligible players from attending the Combine.

14. Arkansas released a video trailer for the 2013 season this past week.  ”We’re talking some serious scope here people. The universe is at stake.”

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Jalen Hurd Favors Three Schools

Running back Jalen Hurd from Beech Senior High School in Hendersonville, Tenn., is one of the nation’s top prospects in the class of 2014.

So it’s no surprise that he favors three of the nation’s top programs: Florida, Georgia and Ohio State. Hurd spoke to ESPN RecruitingNation recently after visiting Florida.

“Florida is great,” Hurd said. “I love the atmosphere and I love the weather. The coaches are also great. They’re very successful right now. Coach (Will) Muschamp is doing a great job with the program and I think they’ll be successful.”

Hurd is familiar with Georgia’s history of producing successful running backs, including current freshmen Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall. That’s one reason the Bulldogs remain high on Hurd’s list.

“Georgia is great,” said Hurd, who plans to visit Athens, Ga., this fall. “I know they have a history of great running backs.”

Tennessee has a successful history but has struggled on the field in recent years. Those issues have appeared to hurt the Vols in their pursuit of one of the state’s top prospects in the 2014 class.

“As an athlete, you want a program that’s successful and has it all together,” Hurd told ESPN. “UT isn’t doing as well as they want to right now. If they start to do well, then they might be more with me but right now, UT is not the highest on my list.”

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SEC Headlines – 1/17/12

Gotta lot of radio to do today plus CSS tonight, so we’re gonna jam all the day’s headlines into one post.  Ready?  Here goes…


1.  Florida’s Patrick Young is battling ankle tendinitis.

2.  Georgia should be well represented in the NFL draft.

3.  Freshman tailback Keith Marshall challenged sophomore receiver Malcolm Mitchell to a foot race… and almost beat him.  (Video.)

4.  Mike Anderson says his Arkansas team will be on the attack against Kentucky tonight.

5.  Meanwhile, this writer says the UK-Tennessee multi-sport rivalry is becoming a good one.

6.  South Carolina is going to be awfully deep at running back next season.

7.  Cuonzo Martin wants Tennessee to cut down on turnovers.

8.  In Knoxville, it’s all about defense.

9.  Ex-Vanderbilt coach Ricky Logo has been hired onto Houston’s football staff.  (Corrected: Logo was NOT on VU’s staff this past season.)

10.  New Alabama offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier is described as a Jim McElwain clone.

11.  An idiot, scumbag Alabama fan could face jail time for his videotaped assault on drunken LSU fan.  (If any of the folks captured in the NSFW video are UA students, the school should boot ‘em.  By doing what they did and laughing at a poor drunk guy they embarrass the school they supposedly love.  Here’s hoping some these heartless losers go to jail.)

12.  With quarterback Barrett Trotter leaving, Auburn will have in 2012 its sixth different opening day starter in six years.

13.  Auburn needs a big night from Frankie Sullivan tonight at LSU.

14.  Brandon Mitchell — Arkansas’ backup quarterback — could make his hoops debut tonight.

15.  The Hogs see tonight’s game in Lexington as an opportunity to make a big impression.

16.  LSU will try to get back to .500 in league play against Auburn this evening.

17.  It’s official… Gunner Kiel has enrolled at Notre Dame.

18.  Unlike Dan Mullen, Rick Stansbury isn’t boasting of his team’s success against Ole Miss.

19.  Dundrecous Nelson — Ole Miss’ leading scorer until he was dismissed following a pot arrest two weeks ago — will transfer to Jackson State.

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Todd Gurley Prepares For Announcement

Running back Todd Gurley from Tarboro (N.C.) High School will announce his decision Friday afternoon at 2 eastern time.

Gurley is considering Georgia, Clemson and North Carolina and North Carolina State.

Gurley, who’s considered the nation’s 11th-best running back for the class of 2012 by ESPN.com, has been writing a blog diary for ESPN during the recruiting process. He shares thoughts on his top four schools in his latest entry.

Some have wondered if the decision of Raleigh, N.C., running back Keith Marshall to attend Georgia would keep the Bulldogs out of the race for Gurley. Marshall, who enrolled at Georgia earlier this month, has actually helped Georgia recruit Gurley.

“My bro Keith Marshall goes there now and that would be good to have two NC boys in the backfield representing for our state,” Gurley wrote on Thursday. “Plus, the relationship I developed over time with (running backs) coach Bryan McClendon and coach (Mark) Richt has been great. Two great coaches running a great program.”

And like Marshall, Gurley’s decision could come down to Georgia and Clemson, according to Dave Hooker of ESPN.com.

Expect whichever team that doesn’t land Gurley to make a strong push for Stone Mountain, Ga., running back Mike Davis, who’s considering Georgia, South Carolina, Tennessee, Clemson and Florida State.

Davis, who originally committed to Florida, told MrSEC last month he’s already decided which school he will attend but plans to wait until National Signing Day to announce his decision.

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Richt All Smiles Over New UGA RB

Georgia’s latest five-star running back is already on campus, in class, and giving his head coach reason to smile.  Here’s what Mark Richt had to say about Keith Marshall yesterday:


“He’s a very talented young man.  He’s very focused.  As a matter of fact, I walked into the meeting last night and he had a playbook in his hand and he was looking over assignments.  It just gave me a moment to grin seeing how excited he was about being at Georgia.

I’m sure he’s a little nervous, too, like a lot of guys.  I remember my first night I spent away from home.  There’s a little bit of anxiety, but it’s mixed in their with a lot of excitement.”


Speaking of nervousness and anxiety, sophomore-to-be tailback Isaiah Crowell — the Dawgs’ five-star signee from a year ago — might want to pay attention to his coach’s praise of Marshall.  If Crowell doesn’t live up to his promise of becoming more responsible, it’s his playing time that Marshall might nab.

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UGA’s Crowell Wants To Focus On Accountability, Responsbility

Entering the 2011 season, true freshman running back Isaiah Crowell was probably the most popular man in Georgia.  The top tailback prospect had excited fans by picking the homestate Dawgs.

He went on to rush for 847 yards to lead all SEC freshman backs and to finish 5th in the league overall (77.0 ypg).

Despite the on-field success, Crowell was constantly making news away from the field.  Injuries were a year-long concern.  Two suspensions and a “did not start” in the SEC Championship Game left UGA coaches searching for a new hotshot tailback prospect — whom they found in Keith Marshall — and left fans scratching their heads.  (Or venting on messageboards.  There was plenty of Crowell-induced venting.)

But in a Q&A with Chip Towers of The AJC, Crowell says it’s time to do some more growing up.  Asked what lessons he might have learned during his first year of college ball, Crowell said just what coaches and fans wanted to hear:


“Just follow my teammates and coaches.  They’re counting on me to do what I’m supposed to do. … I think I need to be more accountable and handle my responsibilities better.”


So is that just lip service?  Let’s hope not.

Stories from behind the scenes at Georgia suggest Crowell is still dealing with maturity issues after having been coddled through much of his pre-college athletic career.  He’s hardly the first player to fit that description.

UGA fans will most likely turn their focus to the aforementioned Marshall by next fall, but it would be wrong for anyone — including those of us in the press — to write off Crowell as a headcase at this point. 

If nothing else, he’s saying the right things.  And that means he’s at least listening to his coaches.

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