Sunday, August 30, 2009

SEC Preview



Now that my team previews are complete, it's time to tie it all together with an overall SEC preview.  Below is a quick recap of the strengths and concerns for each team heading into the season.  You'll notice that LSU is not on the list, and I hope to have a bit of a preview of the Tigers by the middle of this week. 

Concerns:  New offensive coordinator; experience at WR position
Strengths:  Everything Else

Concerns: Quarterback; Defensive Coaching; Nonconference schedule
Strengths:  Offensive line, defensive tackles, star wide receiver

Concerns: Quarterback; Maturity of Head Coach
Strengths:  Top safety in nation

Concerns:  Running back experience; Line play
Strengths:  Linebackers

Concerns: Playmakers on offense
Strengths: Secondary; Returning experience on defense

Concerns:  Quarterback; Playmakers on offense
Strengths: 3 stars on defense (Lindley, LB Micah Johnson, DE Jeremy Jarmon)

Concerns:  New Quarterback; Replacements on offensive line
Strengths:  Defense; Running Backs; Star Wide Receiver

Concerns: Replacements of All-Americans on lines
Strengths:  Defensive Line; Quarterback;

Concerns: Defense
Strengths:  Quarterback made for offensive system; Tight-end

Concerns:  Stability at Quarterback; Offensive Line
Strengths:  Running Backs; Secondary

Concerns:  Line play
Strengths:  Star Running Back; Linebackers

Below are my predictions for how I think the season will play out.  Clicking on the links for the teams takes you to each team's preview; however, I've updated the schedule at the bottom of each to include my predictions on each game. 

SEC East
Florida 12-0 (8-0)
Georgia 8-4 (5-3)
Tennessee 7-5 (3-5)
Kentucky  7-5 (3-5)
South Carolina 5-7 (2-6)
Vanderbilt 4-8 (1-7)

SEC West
Alabama  10-2 (7-1)
LSU  10-2 (6-2)
Ole Miss  10-2 (6-2)
Arkansas  8-4 (4-4)
Auburn  7-5 (3-5)
Mississippi State 3-9 (0-8)

Note:  Florida defeats Alabama in the SEC Championship Game

Below is my version of the 2009 All-SEC Team.  Different from most pre-season All-conference teams, mine is more of a prediction as to who will be on the post-season All-SEC team.  If a player is a new starter but I think they're going to be one of the best in the league at their position, then I put them on my team.  Other all conference team voters seem reluctant to include anyone who doesn't have a ton of experience. 


QB - Tim Tebow UF
RB - Charles Scott LSU
RB - Michael Smith ARK
WR - Julio Jones  BAMA
WR - AJ Green  UGA
WR - Brandon Lafell LSU
TE - DJ Williams ARK
OL - Ciron Black LSU
OL - Mike Johnson BAMA
OL - Mike Pouncey UF
OL - Trindon Sturdivant UGA
C - Josh McNeil TEN

DE - Greg Hardy OM
DE - Carlos Dunlap UF
DT - Terrance Cody  BAMA
DT - Geno Atkins  UGA
LB - Rolondo McClain BAMA
LB - Brandon Spikes UF
LB - Rennie Curran UGA
S - Eric Berry TEN
S - Reshad Jones UGA
CB - Trevard Lindley UK
CB - Joe Haden  UF


QB - Jevan Snead  OM
RB - Anthony Dixon MSU
RB - Bryce Brown TEN
WR - Dexter McCluster OM
WR - Gerald Jones TEN
WR - Joe Adams ARK
TE - Aaron Hernandez UF
OL - Clint Boling UGA
OL - Mitch Petrus ARK
OL - John Jerry OM
OL - Joseph Barksdale LSU
C - Maurkice Pouncey UF

DE - Antonio Coleman AUB
DE - Rahim Alem LSU
DT - Malcolm Shephard ARK
DT - Jeff Owens UGA
LB - Eric Norwood USC
LB - Rico McCoy TEN
LB - Donta Hightower BAMA
S - Chad Jones LSU
S - Major Wright UF
CB - Janoris Jenkins UF
CB - Patrick Peterson LSU

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Arkansas Preview


The Arkansas preview below concludes the team previews.  I'll release my SEC predictions and All-SEC team on Monday.  It will then be Game Week, and I'll be back to doing regular updates when appropriate.  As the season progresses, I'll do a lot of game previews but there's no need to preview the first game since nothing has changed since I previewed Washington recently.

Also if you're new to the site, I invite you to take advantage of the e-mail feature.  If you plug in your e-mail address in the box to the right of your screen and follow the simple directions, then you will receive the Saturday Night Slant in your inbox anytime I post an update.  You can also hit the "About The Site" link at the top right and look at the other ways to follow the Saturday Night Slant. 


Arkansas fans are looking forward to the 2009 season with high expectations. Head coach Bobby Petrino enters his second season, and he now has a big-time quarterback to run his offense. Their defense should be a year better. And they're thinking about bowl games in Fayeteville...and I'm right there with them. I'm a believer in Bobby Petrino and think Arkansas is going to be hell to deal with this year, despite the fact that their talent is not at the level of the elite programs in the SEC. I expect the Hogs to be much improved and should improve upon last year's 5-7 record by two or three games.


Michigan transfer Ryan Mallett (pictured) is ready to take over as the Hogs' signal caller, and he's the perfect guy to run Bobby Petrino's system which has traditionally succeeded with pro-style QBs such as Brian Brohm and Stefan Lefors. Mallett is a big guy at 6'7" and he has a howitzer for a right arm that will remind many LSU fans of Jamarcus Russell. He's not mobile, but he can make every throw imaginable and he should flourish in this offense. He's likely headed for some All-SEC or even some All-American teams in the future. Though he lacks experience, he should be a significant improvement over Casey Dick from last year.

Arkansas relied on the passing game last year to produce on offense, but Petrino prefers to be balanced. He returns All-SEC running back Michael Smith who ran for over 1,000 yards and eight touchdowns in 2008. However Smith was the only back that was productive for Arkansas last year, and he looks to be their only legitmate threat again this year. A couple of true freshman, Knile Davis and Ronnie Wingo, could play major roles.

Arkansas doesn't have one of the better receiver units in the SEC, but they do have some threats. Senior London Crawford is the most experienced of the group, but he only caught 27 balls, though one of those was the game winner against LSU. Sophomore speedster Joe Adams is a guy who I think will really break out this year. Jarious Wright should contribute as well. They do have an outstanding tight end in DJ Williams, who caught 61 passes in 2008. The Hogs will surely lean on Williams again.

The Hogs still look weak on the offensive line. They allowed a league worst 45 sacks in 12 games last year. They also ranked tenth in the SEC in rushing yards. They return 3 starters from last year's unit, and only guard Mitch Petrus is an All-SEC candidate.  This is the biggest question mark on the team. 


The Hogs's defense was their weak spot in 2008 as they ranked dead last in the SEC in total defense allowing 375 yards per game. They also ranked last in scoring defense, allowing 31 points per game. Will they be better this year? Probably a bit since they return most of their starters. But will they be improved enough on defense to really contend in the SEC West? Not likely.
On the defensive line, Arkansas returns their best player on defense in defensive tackle Malcolm Sheppard (pictured). He logged eight tackles for loss and 6.5 sacks last year. Combined with Zach Stadther, who is solid, the defense should be tough up the middle. Their defensive ends are not huge pash rushing threats.

All three starting linebackers return, including Jerry Franklin who led the team in tackles in 2008 with 87. The linebacking crew didn't make a ton of plays last year, but they return a lot of starting experience.

The secondary will be a strong suit for the Hogs. They return both starting cornerbacks who combined for 17 pass break-ups. Free safety Elton Ford returns though JUCO transfer, Anthony Leon, may be a factor. Sophomore Jerico Nelson, who played at Destrehan with Jordan Jefferson and Tim Molton, could start at strong safety.

All in all, I expect Arkansas to be much improved but to still finish no better than 4th in the SEC West. Their schedule (below) presents four very winnable home conference games. I think they're in a prime position to upset Georgia in Fayeteville. They also have four winnable non-conference games with the toughest game being against Texas A&M in Dallas. Their road games all look very tough however. Seven wins looks like a strong possibility.

All SEC candidates:
QB Ryan Mallett
RB Michael Smith
WR Joe Adams
TE DJ Williams
DT Malcolm Shephard
OG Mitch Petrus

vs. Missouri State (W)
vs. Georgia  (W)
@ Alabama  (L)
vs. Texas A&M (Dallas) (W)
vs. Auburn (W)
@ Florida (L)
@ Ole Miss (L)
vs. Eastern Michigan (W)
vs. South Carolina (W)
vs. Troy (W)
vs. Mississippi State (W)
@ LSU (L)

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Ole Miss Preview



Ole Miss enters the 2009 season with a very unfamiliar target on their back. Benefiting from the previous coaching staff's recruiting efforts, especially along the lines, the Rebels surprised a lot of people in 2008 en route to a nice 9-4 season and Cotton Bowl victory. But their success last year wasn't only due to being underestimated by their opponents. They were a very good football team. Now in 2009, they have to replace their best lineman on each side of the ball. Left tackle Michael Oher and defensive tackle Peria Jerry were both first-team All Americans in 2008, and they're both gone. But one of the nation's top quarterbacks and some quality skill players makes Ole Miss very competitive in the SEC West. A very favorable schedule helps even more. If they don't win the division this year, I'm not sure they ever will. Houston Nutt is known for getting the most out of his talent, but he hasn't turned in good coaching performances when people expected his teams to succeed. It will be very interesting to see how this team responds to all the attention they're getting.


The star on offense is junior quarterback Jevan Snead and rightfully so. Snead had an outstanding sophomore season, his first as a starter. He completed 56% of his passes for 2,762 yards with 26 TDs and 13 INTs. I only expect those numbers to improve. Snead is also mobile enough to make a few plays with his feet and to be very effective on roll outs. Ole Miss does lack depth however. If something were to happen to Snead, their season would turn south in a hurry.

The Rebels have a number of running backs, none of which truly stand out but all of which are effective. Cordera Eason and Scotlandville's Brandon Bolden will again split the load. Eason ran for 647 yards last year while Bolden had 542 in his freshman campaign. Former 5-star recruit Enrique Davis is also in the mix though he disappointed as a freshman in 2008. You'll also see Dexter McCluster carry the ball quite a bit, many times out of the "Wild Rebel" formation where he takes a direct snap and he'll also run sweeps, pitches, and reverses. With the departure of Percy Harvin, McCluster becomes the SEC's top multi-purpose threat. He had over 600 yards rushing and receiving in 2008. If the offensive line can duplicate last year's success, then the running backs should put up similar numbers.

At receiver, Ole Miss lost their top deep threat from last year in Mike Wallace, who really opened things up down the field for them. He averaged a ridiculous 20 yards per reception and scored seven touchdowns. They return Shay Hodge as their only established true wide receiver, and Hodge is awfully good. He racked up 725 receiving yards last year and eight touchdowns. McCluster is also a factor in the passing game, working mostly from the slot where he caught 44 passes last year. Simply put, defenses have to account for McCluster on every single play. After those two, Ole Miss doesn't have a lot of experience. Enter true freshman Pat Patterson. He presents a big target at 6'3" 215 pounds and by the time Ole Miss plays LSU in November, I expect Patterson will be well established. Markeith Summers and Lionel Breaux will see the field as well.

Ole Miss was dominant on the offensive line last year, which set the tone for the entire offense. They must replace two starters from that unit, including All-American Michael Oher. True freshman Bobby Massie may compete for the vacant left tackle position. Bradley Sowell will also be in the mix. Right tackle John Jerry will likely remain on the right side. He is enormous at 350 pounds and is not well suited to protect the quarterback's blind side. Center Daverin Geralds and guard Reid Neely are solid and Rishaw Johnson is a new starter at right guard.


While Ole Miss lost defensive tackle Peria Jerry, their defensive line will still be awfully good. The Rebels have Jerrel Powe, who is finally in football shape after spending last year getting accustomed to the college game. He'll be solid, if not very good. They also have Ted Laurent who notched seven tackles for loss last year. At defensive end, Ole Miss has three guys who will play a lot. First is future first rounder Greg Hardy (pictured) who had 8.5 sacks and 9.5 tackles for loss in limited time last year. They also have Marcus Tillman who is a multi-year starter and very solid. Kentrell Lockett will see more time this season as well. In a reserve role last year, Lockett managed 11.5 tackles for loss. Ole Miss will be tough against the run and they'll be able to rush the passer often and effectively.

At linebacker, Ole Miss is solid but doesn't have any real stars. Allen Walker, Patrick Trahan, and Jonathan Cornell all have starting experience and none are really considered weaknesses. Walker is probably the best of the group, and he could really come into his own this year...his junior season.

If Ole Miss has a weakness on defense, it's the secondary. Starting cornerbacks Marshay Green and Cassius Vaughn are solid but both are under 5'10" which presents some match up problems for them. Kenderick Lewis is a returning starter at safety, and he is a good player. He led Ole Miss in tackles last year and intercepted four passes.

All in all, Ole Miss will suffer from losing their All-American linemen but they'll benefit from the improvement that Jevan Snead will make. Their schedule is as easy as you'll find in the SEC, and this season is tailor made for the Rebels to make a run at the SEC Championship.

All SEC Candidates:
QB Jevan Snead
WR Shay Hodge
WR Dexter McCluster
OL John Jerry
DL Greg Hardy

@ Memphis (W)
vs. Southeastern LA (W)
@ South Carolina (Thursday) (W)
@ Vanderbilt (W)
vs. Alabama (W)
vs. UAB (W)
vs. Arkansas (W)
@ Auburn (L)
vs. Northern Arizona (W)
vs. Tennessee (W)
vs. LSU (L)
@ Mississippi State (W)

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Alabama Preview



Alabama enters the 2009 season with huge expectations from a fan base who is starving for a championship of some kind. The Crimson Tide unexpectedly went undefeated in in 2008, before losing twice to end the season. It left a bitter taste in the mouth of Tide followers, who are now expecting double digit wins and championships on a regular basis. Even though the 2009 Tide has some big holes to fill, they have the talent and the schedule to do just championships. A season opener against Virginia Tech could set the tone for the season. Bama's favorable schedule makes them the favorite in my eyes to win the SEC West.


The biggest question mark surrounding this year's team is whether new quarterback Greg McElroy will be able to handle a starting job in the SEC. Three year starter John Parker Wilson is gone and despite being Alabama's all-time leading passer, Wilson was never considered anything but an average quarterback. Last season, Wilson completed 58% of his passes for 2273 yards with ten touchdowns and eight interceptions. Not the numbers you'd expect from a team that ran through the SEC undefeated. Offensive coordinator Jim McElwain did a great job of simplifying things for Wilson and maximizing Bama's chances for success. Having a great running game and defense made that task easier, but Wilson fulfilled his end of the bargain. Will Greg McElroy be able to do the same? McElroy is actually pretty similar to Wilson in size and skill set, and he's looked awfully good in limited playing time last year and in Bama's spring game. It sure seems that McElroy will be able to duplicate what Wilson did by managing games and making good decisions, but until we see him in serious game action, he'll continue to be a question mark. Depth is an issue as well. McElroy's backups are redshirt freshman Star Jackson and true freshman AJ McCarron. Jackson has by all accounts looked poor in practice.

Helping ease the burden on McElroy will once again be Bama's running backs. Gone from last year is star Glen Coffee who racked up 1,383 yards and ten touchdowns last year. Coffee split time with Mark Ingram, who will be counted on more in his sophomore season. Ingram ran for 728 yards and 12 touchdowns of his own in 2008. Ingram was the big back who was counted on to get the tough yards while Coffee was the home run threat, ripping off several very long runs. Will they be able to replace Coffee's big play ability? The Tide should have very good depth. True freshman Trent Richardson was, in my opinion, the best high school running back in the nation last year, and he'll be counted on. He's Bama's best bet to take one the distance. Bama also has Roy Upchurch who ran for 350 yards last year. Another true freshman, Dutchtown's Eddie Lacy, could make some noise too. The running backs should certainly be considered a strength on this team.

Alabama may look to utilize the wide receivers a bit more in 2009. A season ago, the offense relied heavily on the running game, and they also threw to their tight-end a lot. That tight-end is gone, and the Tide's wide receivers should be more productive. Julio Jones returns as one of the top stars in the SEC, and huge things are expected from him. Last year, Jones caught 58 balls for 924 yards and four touchdowns. Aside from Jones, Bama has some other good options. Senior Mike McCoy caught 16 passes last year and is a solid threat. Sophomore Marquis Maze, who caught 11 passes in 2008, presents a very good deep threat. Several freshmen have a chance to contribute as well.

Bama's offensive line made everything click for them on offense last year. Their success in the running game simplified things for the quarterback. They'll have the same plan again this year, but will the line be as good? Gone from last year's line are a pair of First Team All-Americans in left tackle Andre Smith and center Antoine Caldwell. Needless to say, Alabama won't fill those spots with First Team All-Americans. James Carpenter will be Smith's replacement at left tackle while William Vlachos will play center. Redshirt freshman Tyler Love will likely play right tackle while massive true freshman DJ Fulker will compete at both tackle positions. Senior Mike Johnson, Bama's best offensive lineman, returns at left guard. All in all, Bama has concerns along the line due to some new faces. They'll likely see improvement as the season progresses.


The strength of Alabama's team will once again be the defense. In 2008, Alabama finished third in the nation in total defense and seventh in scoring defense. With eight starters returning, the expectations are quite high.

Up front, things again start with gigantic nose tackle Terrance Cody. Cody is a space eater and he brings value to the defense by occupying blockers and freeing up his teammates to make plays. Brandon Deadrick, a starter a year ago, and senior Lorenzo Washington should be the defensive ends.

Junior Rolando McClain (pictured)returns as the leader of the defense and as a pre-season All-SEC pick at middle linebacker. He'll once again be a stud. Bama's "Jack" linebacker, essentially a rush defensive end, was filled in 2008 by Brandon Fanney but he has been dismissed from the team. It's unclear what Bama will do to fill the void. Returning weakside linebacker Dont'A Hightower may move down to play "Jack", and we may see sophomore Jerrell Harris, freshman Nico Johnson, or freshman Tana Patrick take over at the weakside position. Senior Cory Reamer will likely play the strongside position. Bama's linebackers are extremely good.

The Tide returns three starters in the secondary, including both cornerbacks. Kareem Jackson is very solid while Javier Arenas is more susceptible to the big play, but he's also more likely to make a big play of his own. Arenas is also one of the most dangerous return men in the nation. Senior Justin Woodall, one of the league's top safeties, returns to start at strong safety. Bama has good competition for the free safety position. Redshirt freshman and former John Curtis standout Robby Green is the front runner for the position though he's receiving a push from sophomore Mark Barron, who is more physically talented.

All SEC Candidates:
RB Mark Ingram
OL Mike Johnson
WR Julio Jones
DT Terrance Cody
LB Rolando McClain
LB Dont'A Hightower
S Justin Woodall
RET Javier Arenas

vs. Virginia Tech (Atlanta) (L)
vs. Florida International (W)
vs. North Texas (W)
vs. Arkansas (W)
@ Kentucky (W)
@ Ole Miss (L)
vs. South Carolina (W)
vs. Tennessee (W)
vs. LSU (W)
@ Mississippi State (W)
vs. Chattanooga (W)
@ Auburn (W)

Monday, August 24, 2009

Loston Eligible; Auburn Preview



Freshman safety Craig Loston has finally been academically cleared by the NCAA and is now eligible to participate with the team. The question now becomes whether Loston is too far behind to contribute this season. He has missed most of fall camp and is way behind in trying to learn the defensive scheme. He could certainly be a contributor on special teams and perhaps see the field towards the end of the season. But is it worth using a year of eligibility for some special teams work? Or would Loston be better served taking a redshirt year? The coaches may think that Loston is a player that may one day leave early for the NFL and that there is no reason to save his eligibility. We shall see. There were also rumors that Loston required surgery for a wrist injury but since he was out at practice today, I'm assuming that isn't the case.

With Loston now at practice, that means that the entirety of the much heralded 2009 signing class is academically eligible.

But on that note, the Class of 2009 has also lost their first player. Offensive lineman Carneal Ainsworth has left the football team for now. Ainsworth is apparently going through some rough personal times due to a death in his family. It remains a bit unclear as to whether Ainsworth could re-join the team in the future.

Redshirt freshman linebacker / fullback Kellen Theriot has been missing from fall camp thus far due to an injury, but he was out there today. I really think Theriot and think he'll be a good player in due time, so it's good to hear that he's back out there.

Clay Spencer is rumored to have suffered a season ending injury. He wasn't at practice today, which lends credibility to those rumors. Spencer wasn't expected to be a major contibutor this year.

Freshman linebacker Tahj Jones continues to be out with an injury. Jones was likely headed for a redshirt this year regardless.

Defensive end Pep Levingston suffered a broken hand and was not at practice today. However, his injury isn't something that is expected to keep him off the field.


The 2009 Auburn team looks to be the weakest that I can remember this decade. We're starting to see the effects of Alabama's domination of Auburn in recruiting the state of Alabama since Nick Saban arrived prior to the 2007 season. Auburn's team simply doesn't have the stars or All-SEC candidates that we've become accustomed to over the last eight years.

The big story for this Auburn team is their new coaching staff. Most, including me, were highly unimpressed with Auburn's hire of Gene Chizik as head coach. However, Chizik made some good hires for assistant coaches, most notably offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn from Tulsa. SEC fans are familiar with Malzahn from his days as the Arkansas offensive coordinator in 2006. But SEC fans are not familiar with the offense that Malzahn likes to run. With Darren McFadden and Felix Jones, head coach Houston Nutt stuck primarily to the ground...and rightfully so. But Auburn will unleash Malzahn's true spread offense. Malzahn's version of the spread is not pass heavy like the Airraid offense at Texas Tech nor is it based on the running game like Rich Rodriguez's spread option. It relies on balance, and more important than the plays that are called is the tempo in which they are called. This entry at the Smart Football Blog details his offense pretty nicely, and it's worth a read if you're into Xs and Os.


While Malzahn coordinated the nation's #1 offense at Tulsa last year, Auburn just doesn't look to have the personnel to put together a terribly impressive unit at this point. Like any offense, Malzahn relies on the quarterback to be efficient and to make a lot of reads, even in the running game. But Auburn's QB situation is unsettled, to put it nicely. Kodi Burns (pictured), Chris Todd, and Neil Caudle all started the fall as competitors for the job. However, Burns has been moved to wide receiver and Chris Todd was named the starter. Todd started several games for Auburn last year, but a shoulder injury really prevented him from being effective. He's healthy now and reportedly looks much improved at practice. Caudle will most likely be the backup. He's a similar player to Todd in that he's not very mobile and is a pocket passer. True freshman Tyrik Rollision is an outstanding athlete, but has a long way to go as a passer. We may seem him on the field this year for some designed QB runs. If Rollison redshirts, then Burns may still see some work as a Wildcat style quarterback.

Running back is the strength of the Auburn offense, and they return some familiar names such as Ben Tate and Mario Fanin. Both are established performers at the SEC level and Fanin seems to be a bit better fit for Malzahn's spread offense. Fanin is the faster of the two and is a better receiver. At Tulsa, Malzhan used a lot of backs and had five running backs with 300 or more rushing yards. And they all averaged 6.2 yards per carry or higher. Auburn's backs are very capable, but they may struggle behind in an offense with a poor offensive line and passing game.

Auburn lacks quality receivers, especially when moving to a spread offense that generally requires 3 good ones. Montez Billings is experienced but thus far has proven to be a fairly pedestrian performer at the SEC level. Junior Tim Hawthorne is very talented but has yet to come close to fulfilling the high expectations surrounding him coming out of high school. Chris Slaughter will finally try to make an impact too. Auburn does have two very good freshman receivers that will likely see the field in Deangelo Benton and Emory Blake. They are also very solid at tight end with senior Tommy Trott and freshman Philip Lutzenkirchen.

Auburn's offensive line will really struggle. Tackle Lee Ziemba is the only guy who stands out though Chris Pugh has his moments as well. Ziemba is experienced and a pretty good player. The rest of the unit has to come a very long way in order to be considered anything but a liability.

Talent-wise, this offense is a mess. Can Gus Malzahn offset the lack of talent and make the team competitive? It will be interesting to see.


Defensively Auburn will, as always, be very tough. They have solid talent and Gene Chizik is a proven defensive coach.

The defensive line returns All-SEC player Antonio Coleman, but they lose both starting tackles from last year in Sen'Derrick Marks and Tez Doolittle. Both guys were very good players. Nick Fairley, Zach Clayton, and Jake Ricks should get the bulk of the work.

At linebacker, the oft-injured Tray Blackmon and Merrill Johnson are gone. But they do return Josh Bynes (pictured) in the middle, who is poised for a breakout season. They also return Craig Stevens, a starter a year ago. The other spot will likely be manned by junior college transfer Eltoro Freeman.

Auburn's secondary is quite good, and they return a lot of experience. Walter McFadden returns at cornerback where he led the secondary with two interceptions and eight pass break-ups in 2008. They also return both starting safeties in Zac Etheridge and Mike McNeil, though McNeil is getting pushed by freshman Darren Bates. These guys are solid and more than a few SEC teams would love to have these players in their secondary.

All in all, I think we'll see improvement from Auburn but not a ton. I see them winning 6 or 7 games this year and going to a lower tier bowl game.

All-SEC Candidates:
RB Ben Tate
OL Lee Ziemba
DE Antonio Coleman
CB Walter McFadden

vs. Louisiana Tech (W)
vs. Mississippi State (W)
vs. West Virginia (L)
vs. Ball State (W)
@ Tennessee (L)
@ Arkansas (L)
vs. Kentucky (W)
@ LSU (L)
vs. Ole Miss (W)
vs. Furman (W)
@ Georgia (L)
vs. Alabama (L)

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Practice Tidbits; Florida Preview



Just some quick notes as the team continues to prepare for Washington:

Despite some reports over the weekend that freshman safety Craig Loston has been academically cleared by the NCAA to participate, nothing is official yet and Loston still isn't with the team. This will come down to the wire but Les Miles remains "optimistic."

Apparently, freshman fullback Dominique Allen is a bit heavier than the coaches would like. He's up around 270 pounds and they'd like to see him play at around 250 or 255. So while he seemed a lock to receive playing time as a true freshman, he may not see the field this year until he gets to a reasonable playing weight. Walk-on fullback James Stampley continues to draw positive reviews and may be the guy to beat at the fullback position. Stevan Ridley will also get looks there, in addition to tailback.

Sophomore Brandon Taylor continues to work with the starters at strong safety, and it looks like a solid bet that he'll be the #1 guy against Washington. Karnell Hatcher is also doing well and pushing Taylor. Ron Brooks is working at cornerback again.

True freshman Morris Claiborne (pictured) is working with the second unit at cornerback and appears to be the team's fourth corner behind Patrick Peterson, Chris Hawkins, and Jai Eugene. So after 15 practices, he appears to have passed Brooks, Derrick Bryant, and Ryan St. Julien on the depth chart. That speaks volumes and the kid seems to be a future star.

Freshman Russell Shepard is seeing practice reps all over the field. And while Shep is making lots of noise, freshman quarterback Chris Garrett is quietly turning lots of heads.

Les Miles continues to point out freshmen defensive ends Michael Brockers and Sam Montgomery. Those two are making a big push for playing time ahead of redshirt freshmen Chase Clement and Chancey Agahyere.


The Florida Gators enter the 2009 season as the consensus #1 team in America and the favorite to win the SEC. They aren't just chasing another national championship, but they'll be playing for a place in history as one of the best teams of all time. It won't be easy though. No team has won consecutive SEC titles since Tennessee in 1997 and 1998.

Incredibly, all 11 of Florida's defensive starters return from last year. And if that's not enough, all 11 of the backups on defense return too. Needless to say, the Gators will be tough to score points against. Super quarterback Tim Tebow is back for his senior season and with another Heisman Trophy or national championship, or both, he'll go down as perhaps THE greatest college football player of all time. While Florida has a whole lot going for them, they're not without some question marks. First, offensive coordinator Dan Mullen is gone to lead Mississippi State's program. With someone else calling the plays, will their offense be the same? The Gators also have to replace Percy Harvin, who was the best multi-purpose threat in the nation. He led the Gators in receiving and was 2nd on the team in rushing. He was the difference maker for them in a number of games, including the BCS Title Game.


I could tell you all about Tim Tebow, but you probably know everything already. 64% completion percentage. 2,746 yards. 30 TDs and just 4 interceptions. 673 rushing yards and 12 more rushing touchdowns. He's the most valuable player in all of college football. Florida also has pretty good depth. John Brantley, Tebow's backup, was impressive when called upon last year. He also threw for 265 yards and three touchdowns and ran for two touchdowns in Florida's spring game.

Florida's running game will once again come from many sources, one of which is Tebow. The Gator quarterback will be counted on in short yardage situations, and he's always a dangerous threat to run when a passing play breaks down. A pair of small speedsters, Chris Rainey and Jeff Demps, will get a ton of carries from spread formations. Each guy had over 600 yards rushing in 2008. They'll also use Emanuel Moody, a bigger more traditional back, who had 424 rushing yards last year. He'll be utilized more this year. Freshman receiver/runner Andre Debose will likely run the ball on pitches and reverses too.

Though the Gators lost their top two pass catchers from last year, they have a number of talented guys ready to step up. Sophomore Deonte Thompson is poised to break out while senior Riley Cooper will be steady if nothing else. Their leading receiver may be tight end Aaron Hernandez who is utilized in a number ways. Hernandez caught 34 balls a year ago with five touchdowns. Carl Moore, David Nelson, and the aforementioned Debose will also be involved.

Like every other position, Florida will be very good on the offensive line. They're led by twins Maurkice and Mike Pouncey who play center and guard respectively. Both guys could find themselves on some All-SEC teams this year. Former defensive lineman Matt Patchan will play offensive tackle.


Florida has some serious talent along the defensive line, especially at defensive end. Junior Carlos Dunlap is poised to have a monster season. With Mario Williams-like size at 6'6" 285 pounds, Dunlap is as physically gifted as any defensive lineman in the nation. He recorded 9.5 sacks last year. On the other side is Jermaine Cunningham who isn't shabby. Cunningham had six sacks in 2008. The Gators don't have the star power at defensive tackle, but they do return experience. Look for Omar Hunter to make a bigger impact this season.

An insanely deep linebacking corps returns to lead the defense with All-American Brandon Spikes (pictured) being the headliner. Spikes passed up a sure first round selection in the NFL Draft to return to Florida. He led the team in tackles last year with 93. He also recorded two sacks, six tackles for loss and four interceptions. Ryan Stamper and AJ Jones will flank Spikes. Brandon Hicks and Dustin Doe also have a great deal of experience. True freshman Job Bostic has drawn rave reviews from practice thus far and could see some playing time as well.

Florida's secondary is very good and very experienced. Junior Joe Haden is entering his third year as a starting cornerback. On the other side, sophomore Janoris Jenkins looks like he's about to put himself among the elite in the nation at his position. Juniors Ahmad Black and Major Wright will be at safety and both are All-SEC quality. Sophomore safety Will Hill is too good to keep off the field, and he'll play quite a bit.

Most of all, Florida once again has defensive coordinator Charlie Strong calling the shots. While Urban Meyer, Tebow, and the offense get all of the headlines, Strong's defenses have been among the nation's best since he's been in Gainseville.

All-SEC Candidates:
QB Tim Tebow
OL Mike Pouncey
OL Maurkice Pouncey
DE Carlos Dunlap
DE Jermaine Cunningham
LB Brandon Spikes
CB Joe Haden
CB Janors Jenkins
S Ahmad Black
S Major Wright

vs. Charleston Southern (W)
vs. Troy (W)
vs. Tennessee (W)
@ Kentucky (W)
@ LSU (W)
vs. Arkansas (W)
@ Mississippi State (W)
vs. Georgia (in Jacksonville, FL)  (W)
vs. Vanderbilt (W)
@ South Carolina (W)
vs. Florida International (W)
vs. Florida State (W)

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Georgia Preview


Georgia went into the 2008 season as a favorite to win the national title and with a target on their back. They didn't handle the pressure of being "the hunted" too well, losing 3 times. More disturbing was that two of the losses were blowouts with defensive breakdowns becoming a common occurrence. Gone from the 2008 team are a pair of stars in quarterback Matthew Stafford and running back Knowshown Moreno...both first round draft picks. As usual, the Dawgs return a ton of talent and will have a very good football team.


Any success Georgia will have in 2009 is dependent on senior quarterback Joe Cox. After waiting his turn for 3 years, DJ Shockley finally got his turn as a senior to lead the Dawgs in 2005. He had an All-SEC season and led the Dawgs to an SEC title. After waiting his turn for several years, senior Joe Tereshinki finally got his turn to lead Georgia in 2006. He was awful. Georgia lost four times including games to Vanderbilt and Kentucky. They ultimately turned the reigns over to true freshman, Matt Stafford. So what is Joe Cox going to do? I think he's going to remind people a lot more of Joe Tereshinki than of DJ Shockley, and I think Georgia will struggle offensively as a result. Cox is serviceable at best. Sophomore Logan Gray is the backup to start the season, and the coaches may turn to him if Cox struggles. Gray is more mobile than Cox and can make a few things happen with his feet. Georgia also has highly acclaimed true freshman Aaron Murray, who is the future for them at QB.

The next biggest question facing this team is who will replace Knowshown Moreno? Unlike at quarterback, the Dawgs have a wealth of talent to step in at running back. Caleb King was the star of fall practice a year ago and earned the backup role behind Moreno. He managed 247 yards and a 4.0 yards per carry average...adequate but certainly not great numbers. King was considered to be the favorite to begin the season as Georgia's starter, but sophomore Richard Samuel seems to have the upper hand right now. Redshirt freshman Dontavious Jackson will also be in the mix. A guy to really watch is true freshman Washaun Ealey, who could end up being the best of the bunch by mid season. Not only does Georgia have to replace Moreno, but they have to replace 4-year starter Brannan Southerland at fullback.

Sophomore AJ Green will lead Georgia's receiving corps this year after a sensational freshman season. Green is already a household name in the southeast and he is a future first round draft pick. But part of Green's success in 2008 was due to the receiver on the other side of the field, Mohammed Massaquoi. "Mo Mass" caught 58 passes for 920 yards and eight touchdowns. I don't think that production will be easy to replace, and I think it will lead to more attention being paid to Green by the defense. Combined with the uncertainty at QB, I think that's a recipe for a bit of a disappointing sophomore season for AJ Green. Senior Michael Moore will likely be the other starter and he caught a respectable 29 catches a year ago. One to watch is redshirt freshman Tavarres King.

After a few years of disarray on the offensive line, Georgia is set to have an outstanding group in 2009...maybe the best in the SEC. Trindon Sturdivant returns after being injured in 2008 and should be very good. Clint Boling is an All-SEC talent who should play right tackle. They return all their other starters, including Ben Jones who could have a breakout season. Georgia will look to lean on their line to lead the way in the running game to make things easier on Cox and the passing game.


On paper, Georgia's defense looks to be outstanding but they still have some questions that need to be answered. Much like LSU, Georgia's defense underachieved in a very big way in 2008. They finished 6th in the SEC in Total Defense, but they struggled a great deal in their big games. Alabama scored 31 first half points against them and 41 total. LSU scored 38 points and racked up 497 total yards. Then Florida scored 49 points in an embarrassing loss in Jacksonville. Finally, Georgia Tech scored 45 points and rushed for 409 yards in another loss. Much like in Baton Rouge, the fans were not happy with the defensive coaching staff. But unlike LSU, the defensive coordinator was retained. So while the talent is evident, many questions concerning the coaching and the scheme remain.

Georgia's defensive line is very good up the middle. Extremely good. They have Geno Atkins, a future NFL player, at one defensive tackle and Jeff Owens who returns from injury but is an All-SEC caliber player himself. Sophomore Deangelo Tyson is also very good and he's just waiting his turn. He'll play some and they won't lose too much when he's in the game. On the ends, Georgia has some question marks. They don't have any proven pass rushers, and Georgia may have to blitz in order to get pressure on the quarterback. Senior Roderick Battle will likely start on one side. He has experience, but hasn't stood out at this point in his career. Sophomore Justin Houston seems ready to break out on the other side, but he isn't terribly experienced. Kiane Tripp and Damarcus Dobbs will also contribute.

The leader of Georgia's defense is linebacker Rennie Curran. He led the team in tackles last year with 115 and also notched three sacks and seven tackles for loss. He gets lost in the conversation of the SEC's top linebacker with Florida's Brandon Spikes and Bama's Rolando McClain but he deserves to be mentioned with those guys. Akeem Dent and Darryl Gamble return with a lot of experience and are very solid players. Sophomore Nick Williams moved to linebacker from safety and he looks ready to break out.

In the secondary, senior Reshad Jones leads the group. Jones is an All-SEC talent who had 76 tackles last year. Byran Evans will start at the other safety position. Georgia has a couple of small cornerbacks in Brandon Boykin and Prince Miller. Quinton Banks and John Knox will lend depth at safety while redshirt freshman Sanders Commings could breakout at corner.

Georgia has a difficult non-conference schedule with road trips to Oklahoma State and Georgia Tech while hosting Arizona State. I don't see Georgia seriously contending for the SEC East title, but an 8-4 or 9-3 season seems likely.

All SEC Candidates:
WR AJ Green
OL Trindon Sturdivant
OL Clint Boling
DT Geno Atkins
DT Jeff Owens
LB Rennie Curran
S Reshad Jones

@ Oklahoma State (L)
vs. South Carolina (W)
@ Arkansas (L)
vs. Arizona State (W)
vs. LSU (L)
@ Tennessee (W)
@ Vanderbilt (W)
vs. Florida (L)
vs. Tennessee Tech (W)
vs. Auburn (W)
vs. Kentucky (W)
@ Georgia Tech (W)

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Around The SEC; Mississippi State Preview



GEORGIA - Sophomore running back Richard Samuel seems to have taken control of the starting running back position for the Bulldogs. Most thought Caleb King would be the primary back. While both will likely play quite a bit, Samuel looks to be the #1 replacement for Knowshon Moreno at this point.

ARKANSAS - Arkansas cornerback Isaac Madison, who started 11 games last year, tore his MCL and is out for the season.

TENNESSEE - Star freshman running back Bryce Brown is being investigated by the NCAA regarding his status as an amateur. This goes back to his former trainer/handler Brian Butler and money that Butler raised to send Brown on trips, etc.

MISSISSIPPI STATE - Star running back Anthony Dixon was arrested in July for DUI. However, no punishment has been issued to Dixon as of yet.

VANDERBILT - Starting defensive end will miss six weeks with a broken right foot. He won't be available for Vandy's game against LSU.


Mississippi State appeared to be making progress under former head coach Sylvester Croom. In Croom's third year, the Bulldogs went to the Liberty Bowl and finished with a 8-5 record. However, the wheels came off last year. Rather than building upon their success in 2007, Mississippi State regressed and struggled to a 4-8 record that included a loss to Louisiana Tech. That sealed the fate of Croom, and Mississippi State hired Florida offensive coordinator Dan Mullen to lead the program. Mullen will ty to bring a spread offense to Starkville, but it will take him some time before he has the talent in place to be effective.


Sophomore Tyson Lee is the favorite to be State's starting quarterback to begin the season. Lee was decent at times as a freshman in 2008 and finished the year with a 58.8% completion rate with 7 TDs and 5 INTs. Lee is very small in stature at just 5'11" 200 pounds, and he's not physically equipped to consistently run the ball from the QB position. Mullen's offense is at its best when the QB is a threat to run. As a passer, Lee will likely be asked to make shorter, higher percentage throws. True freshman Tyler Russell is a great fit for Mullen's offense, and he'll likely see some action this year. He may even take over the starting job at some point. Chris Relf, a mobile 6'3" 230 pounder, is making his case to earn some playing time as well.

State returns senior All-SEC running back Anthony Dixon (pictured). In his first three years, Dixon has been consistently very good for the Bulldogs. His success is even more impressive when you consider that he's been their only real offensive threat and has had to run behind ill-equipped offensive lines. He's facing a similar situation in 2009. Dixon's status for the beginning of the year is a bit uncertain due to a DUI arrest in July. The team hasn't handed out any disciplinary action or suspensions as of yet. Backing up Dixon is Christian Ducre, who has had some success in the SEC and is quite capable.

Brandon McRae returns to lead the Bulldogs' receiving corps and he is a good one. He caught 51 passes in 2008. Delmon Robinson and O'Neal Wilder are expected to see lots of playing time as well though neither have much experience.

State really lacks talent on the offensive line, and that may be their undoing again this season. Mississippi State finished 11th in the SEC in rushing yards, and they allowed 37 sacks, good for tenth in the league. They don't have anyone who will compete for All-SEC honors, but they do return a lot of starting experience. Dan Mullen has also gotten creative in attempts to add more athleticism to the line. He has moved starting right tackle Quentin Saulsberry to offensive guard and moved defensive tackle Templeton Hardy to offense.


Mississippi State was quite poor on the defensive line in 2008. They had the fewest sacks in the SEC and ranked just 11th in rushing defense. They also lacked any real play makers on the line. They have high hopes for sophomore Seth Ferguson who notched four sacks in the spring game. Junior college transfer Pernell McPhee hopes to make an instant impact at defensive tackle.

The Bulldogs do return a very solid group of linebackers. Senior Jamar Chaney and junior KJ Wright (right) lead the way. Wright was the sole play maker on the defense in 2008, leading the team with four sacks and five tackles for loss.

The secondary will have to compensate for the loss of Derek Pegues, who was a mainstay in the backfield for the Bulldogs' defense since 2005. Cornerback Marcus Washington is the lone returning starter. Sophomore Charles Mitchell is very talented, and he'll try to make his mark a a starter this year.

All-SEC candidates:
RB Anthony Dixon
LB KJ Wright
LB Jamar Chaney
WR Brandon McRae


vs. Jackson St. (W)
@ Auburn (L)
@ Vanderbilt (L)
vs. LSU (L)
vs. Georgia Tech
vs. Houston (W)
@ Middle Tennessee St. (W)
vs. Florida (L)
@ Kentucky (L)
vs. Alabama (L)
@ Arkansas (L)
vs. Ole Miss (L)

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Baseball Update: Vanderbilt Preview



In some disappointing news, LSU lost some high school signees to Major League Baseball. I outlined these guys on this blog in June. Both Zach Von Rosenburg and Brody Colvin were expected to enroll at LSU and play college baseball; however, both guys signed with the pros. As expected, first round pick Slade Heathchott also signed a pro contract. Brett Bruening, another pitching prospect, won't be at LSU either. So while these guys would have contributed to LSU's team next year, it's nothing that can't be overcome.


Vanderbilt surprised everyone in 2008 by going 4-4 in the SEC (better conference record than LSU) and earning their first trip to a bowl game in over 25 years. They were fortunate to eek out some close wins and take advantage of some teams who overlooked them. They won't be so lucky this year, and nobody will take them for granted.


Vanderbilt shuffled three different quarterbacks in and out of the starting lineup last year and managed to piece together a serviceable offense. Their primary guy from last year, Chris Nickson, is gone which leaves Vanderbilt with a competition for the top spot. Mackenzi Adams (right) has the bulk of the returning experience, though his results weren't anything to write home about. He completed just 49% of his passes with five touchdowns and eight interceptions. However he was the hero in Vandy's win against Auburn, leading them to the come from behind win in the second half. The other candidate is Larry Smith, who started Vanderbilt's bowl game and led them to a win against Boston College.

Vanderbilt doesn't have anything special at running back. They return their leading rusher from last year, Jared Hawkins, who rushed for 593 yards and four touchdowns. Vandy's next two leading rushers last year were their two quarterbacks.

The Commodores don't return much as far as talented receivers. But they do have a transfer from UCONN, Terrance Jeffers, who should contribute right away. He caught 44 balls for UCONN in 2007. Vandy's leading returning receiver is tight-end Brandon Barden.

On the offensiver line, Vanderbilt returns all 5 starters which could really help them keep some drives alive and keep their defense off the field. None of their starters are All-SEC candidates, but they're experienced, used to playing together, and now have bowl game experience.


Vanderbilt, when competitive, has usually been so due to a strong defense. Last year, Vanderbilt finished 8th in the SEC in Total Defense but they managed to hold all but one SEC team (Florida) under 25 points. That keeps them in games and gives them a chance. However they do lose their best player from last year, cornerback DJ Moore.

Vanderbilt returns a lot of experience on the defensive line, including defensive ends Broderick Stewart and Steven Stone, who tied for the team lead in sacks with five.

They also bring back all three starting linebackers, including Patrick Benoist who led the team in tackles last year with 109. He is the best candidate on the team to land on an All-SEC team.

Their secondary features returning starter Myron Lewis at cornerback, who is solid. Lewis had five interceptions last year and six pass break-ups. He'll have to play very tough this year without DJ Moore on the other side.

All in all, Vanderbilt still probably ranks 12th in the SEC in terms of talent. And like mentioned above, they're not going to be able to sneak up on any teams this year. I'd be very surprised if they can notch four SEC wins in 2009 or go to another bowl game. I think they'll be competitive against the lower-tier SEC teams such as Mississippi State, Kentucky, and South Carolina. But I think the quality SEC teams will handle them without too much trouble.

All SEC Candidates:
LB Patrick Benoist
CB Myron Lewis

vs. Western Carolina (W)
@ LSU (L)
vs. Mississippi State (W)
@ Rice (W)
vs. Ole Miss (L)
@ Army (W)
vs. Georgia (L)
@ South Carolina (L)
vs. Georgia Tech (L)
@ Florida (L)
vs. Kentucky (L)
@ Tennessee (L)

Monday, August 17, 2009

Recruiting Round Up; Washington Preview



With 22 commitments in the fold already, it's easy to focus on the players still remaining on LSU's board. That makes this a good time to go over the big list and discuss some possibilities.


QB Zach Lee -- McKinney, TX (Dallas area)
RB Spencer Ware -- Cincinnati, OH
FB Brandon Worle - LaGrange, GA
WR Mike Davis -- Dallas, TX
WR Justin Hunter -- Virginia Beach, VA
TE Nick Jacobs -- Many
TE Travis Dickson -- Ocean Springs, MS
OL Cameron Fordham -- Duluth, GA
OL Evan Washington -- DeSoto, TX (Dallas area)
OL Jamarcus Hardrick (JUCO)
OL Elliott Porter -- Shaw HS
LB Justin Maclin -- Memphis, TN
LB DJ Welter -- Crowley Notre Dame
LB Luke Muncie -- Klein, TX
LB/DE Houston Bates -- St Pauls HS Covington, LA
DE Jordan Allen -- West Monroe HS
DT Dexter Blackmon -- Selma, AL
CB Tryann Mathieu -- St Augustine HS New Orleans
S Eric Reid -- Dutchtown HS
S Sam Gibson -- Prattville, AL
ATH Ronnie Vinson (CB or S) -- Newman New Orleans
ATH Tharold Simon (WR or S) -- Eunice


My Take: LSU is done at QB

Lache Seastrunk -- Temple, TX
Alfred Blue -- Hahnville HS
Storm Johnson -- Loganville, GA (Atlanta area)
Dontae Williams -- Houston, TX
Nick Parker -- Batesville, MS
Corvin Lamb -- Miami, FL

My Take: LSU would like to sign just one more RB, and they want that guy to be Seastrunk. I think the other guys are fall back options. Williams seems to be on the verge to committing to Oregon. Lamb is a "speed back" that could fill that role if Seastrunk goes elsewhere.

Trovon Reed -- Thibodaux
James Wright -- Belle Chase
Demarco Cobbs -- Tulsa, OK
DeAndrew White -- Galena Park, TX (Houston area)
BJ Chitty -- Dothan, AL
Glen Coleman -- West Jefferson
Armand Williams -- Slidell

My Take: LSU definitely wants one more WR and Reed is their guy. They may even take two if they can get the right guys. It will be awfully interseting to follow WR recruiting since the two commitments (Hunter and Davis) are big time out of state recruits who will receive tons of pressure to take other visits. Coleman and Williams are fall back options.

My Take: LSU is done at TE

Damien Robinson -- Olive Branch, MS
TJ Leifheit -- Wilmington, NC
James Stone -- Nashville, TN

My Take: LSU is done at OL unless they can get an elite level tackle such as Robinson, Leifheit, or Robinson.

Rissean Broussard -- Washington Marion Lake Charles (Tennessee commitment)
Damien Jacobs -- Houma, LA
Churphy Steward -- Breaux Bridge
LaCraig Brown-- Monroe
Byran Jones -- Junction City, AR

My Take: LSU would like to sign another DT in this class. Byran Joens seems like a good possibility but LSU would like to see him in person before offering. Steward is a monster but has serious academic question marks. Don't be surprised to see LSU sign Steward and place him in a junior college.

Fre'Shad Hunter -- Cary, NC
JR Ferguson -- MD
Benay Pryor -- MS JUCO
Joseph Okafor -- Houston, TXCurtis

My Take: LSU will take an elite DE such as Hunter or Ferguson but they're otherwise done at DE. Pryor's recruitment continues to be a mysetery. He maintains he's going to LSU, but I don't see it happening.

Travis Williams -- Norfolk, VA

My Take: I really thought LSU wanted one more LB in this class but they cooled on guys like Michael Taylor and Shaun Lewis who have since committed elsewhere. They appear to be still recruiting Williams but he is a long shot.

Jonathon McKnight -- John Curtis HS

My Take: LSU is done at CB but McKnight could be a late addition

My Take: LSU is done at S

Curtis Carter (WR or CB) -- North DeSoto
Jarrett Fobbs (WR or CB) -- Huntington Shreveport

My Take: Carter and Fobbs can be grouped in with the WRs. They offer move value to LSU's staff since they can play both offense and defense. Fobbs currently holds an offer from LSU while Carter does not, but LSU is actively recruiting both.


LSU opens the 2009 season against Washington who failed to win a single game in 2008 and as a result, they have a new head coach. Former USC offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian is the new head man of the Huskies. Sarkisian brought defensive coordinator Nick Holt with him from USC. A bit of optimism surrounds the program right now due to the new coaching staff and the return of 18 starters from a year ago. But since those 18 starters went 0-12 in 2008, is their return really a good thing?


Washington is very glad to return their talented quarterback, Jake Locker (pictured), who was injured for most of last year. Locker is an extremely good player who draws many comparisons to Tim Tebow due to their similar styles of play. He's a big kid and a serious threat to run the ball. When healthy in 2007, Locker had three games with over 80 yards rushing, including 102 against Ohio State. He finished the 2007 season with 986 rushing yards. Locker has a lot of room to improve as a passer though. His completion percentage was under 50% in 2007 and was just 53% in 2008 prior to being injured. Sarkisian's hasn't historically asked his QBs to run the ball, and it will be interesting to see how often Locker runs the ball in 2009. Will Sarkisian run his offense? Or will he allow Locker to improvise and do what he does best? Jake Locker is the guy who has to be outstanding if Washington has any hope of challenging LSU.

The Huskies don't have any real standouts at running back, and they'll be looking to find someone they can count on this fall. They return Willie Griffin who logged a 100 yard rushing game last year. Redshirt freshman Chris Polk is someone the coaches are hoping will emerge and could be the starter.

Not only does Washington not have any standouts at running back, but they're even less impressive on the offensive line. A year ago, they allowed over two and a half sacks per game. They also led the way for a rushing attack that ranked 106 in the nation and just 2.84 yards per carry. They didn't do anything very well. Guard Ben Ossai is the only guy who looks like he may compete for any All PAC-10 honors.

Washington has one serious threat catching the ball in Deandre Goodwin who logged 60 receptions last year. After Goodwin, nobody stands out. Sophomore Jermaine Kearse is being touted as a serious deep threat.


The Husky defensive line was a huge liability last year. They surrendered a horrendous 241 rushing yards per game and 5.7 yards per carry. They also had just 16 sacks for the entire season. They didn't do a whole lot right. The good news is that they return defensive end Daniel Te'O Nesheim who had eight of the team's 16 sacks. He is one of two players on defense who are All PAC-10 quality players. Expect Richard Dickson to help out blocking on his side quite a bit.

The other All Conference candidate is linebacker Mason Foster who recorded 11 tackles for loss from his outside linebacker position. He is a guy that LSU will game plan against.

Washington looks awfully weak in the secondary as well. Even though the defense gave up so much on the ground, other teams still averaged 211 yards per game through the air. They also allowed a pitiful 67% completion percentage. However, Washington had to deal with some injuries last year. They return those players who were starters in 2007, and they're hoping for them to make a positive impact.

On paper, this looks like a pretty weak Washington team and a huge mismatch against LSU. But the team, the fans, and the coaching staff will be eager to jump on anything positive early in the game. They won't be too confident heading into the game and so long as LSU doesn't give them a reason to feel otherwise, the Tigers should take care of business in Seattle.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Travis Dickson Commits To LSU



Ocean Springs, MS tight end Travis Dickson visited LSU this weekend with his family and gave his verbal commitment to LSU's staff. Dickson is a heck of a tight-end prospect and is rated 4 stars by Rivals, Scout, and ESPN. ESPN also rates Dickson as the #59 overall player in the nation. Dickson is 6'3" 235 pounds and fits the mold of a receiving tight end, much like his brother. They have some an evaluation and some video of Dickson here.

That brings LSU's class of 2010 to 22 commitments. Without much room left, it's easy to focus on the players still left on LSU's board. I'll try to do a review of the prospects still out there sometime early this week.


LSU went through their first scrimmage of the fall on Saturday and the news coming from the Ponderosa was relatively predictable.

Jordan Jefferson and Jarrett Lee performed well at QB, though Jefferson threw one interception to Patrick Peterson.

Les Miles singled our receivers Brandon Lafell, Terrance Toliver, and freshman Reuben Randle.

Russell Shepard participated at quarterback, running back and wide receiver.

A few players were out due to minor injuries including Perry Riley and Jacob Cutrera.

Freshmen defensive ends Sam Montgomery and Michael Brockers each logged a sack.


Starting this week, I'm going to begin my preview of all the teams on LSU's schedule this season (leaving off ULL, Tulane, and LA Tech). I'll put out a new preview each day, culminating in my overall SEC preview, complete with predictions, at the end. The previews are designed to be a relatively quick and easy read which should give you some awareness of each team's outlook prior to the season. Look for the Washington preview on Tuesday. I'll continue to update recruiting and LSU's team during this time as well.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Fall Practice Begins; Recruiting Notes; Baseball Loses Signee


First, some housekeeping. I apologize for not posting any updates in nearly a week, but I've been out of town and out of touch. Also don't forget that if you're not signed up for the e-mail updates but would like to be notified any time a new post is made, then just enter your e-mail address in the box to your right and follow the directions.


The 2009 LSU Football Team is together and practice is underway. The Tigers have gone through four days of practice thus far, and the team has been split into two separate practices each day. The staff has been working with the veterans and first teamers in morning sessions while coaching up the freshman and younger players in the evenings. This way, the freshmen gain valuable attention from the coaching staff and the veterans receive plenty of repetitions. I've read all the updates and watched all the videos. And while the media can only view 20 minutes of practice each day, they've been able to pick up on a few things. Here are a few notes to pass along:

Quarterbacks Jordan Jefferson and Jarrett Lee are both taking charge more on the field and look like team leaders rather than the freshmen they were a year ago.

Freshman quarterback Chris Garrett looks very solid while Russell Shepard continues to display his athletic ability, but also his lack of polish as a passer.

Freshman running back Mike Ford (pictured right)really stands out physically. He's built like a veteran and looks to be a strong candidate to contribute this season.

Sophomore Stevan Ridley, who suffered a knee injury in the spring, is out practicing with the team and hasn't shown any signs of being anything less than full speed.

Freshman fullback Dominique Allen is a big kid, easily over 250 pounds. But he's impressively nimble on his feet for a guy his size. #33 will almost certainly see the field this season.

PJ Lonergan and T-Bob Hebert are competing for the starting center position. In the offseason, Hebert was believed to be the guy who would end up winning the position. However, Lonergan has been working with the first team a bit more to this point.

Redshirt freshman defensive tackle Cordian Hagans has moved to offensive guard.

True freshman Chris Faulk has worked some with the veterans as a backup tackle.

Brandon Lafell and Terrance Toliver stand out at wide receiver as the top two guys. Lafell has taken on a leadership role and has been like another coach on the field. As expected, competition abounds for the #3 receiver slot but seniors Chris Mitchell and RJ Jackson have the inside track right now.

Former wide receiver Deangelo Peterson is up to 240 pounds and looks like a serious threat as a receiving tight-end. He could be a guy that really stretches the field.

Star freshman receiver Reuben Randle has looked good. But he's been overshadowed a bit by fellow true freshman Morris Claiborne who has unexpectedly impressed everyone. Claiborne spent two days at receiver and was then bumped up to practice with the veterans as a defensive back. He continued to shine in the secondary. It's unclear where on the field Claiborne will find a home but based on this small sample size, Claiborne appears to be one of the gems of this new group of freshmen.

My own observation is that the defensive linemen all look a bit lighter and better conditioned than they did a year ago. Guys like Drake Nevis, Al Woods, and Pep Levingston look better proportioned and light on their feet.

Jacob Cutrera and Perry Riley look entrenched as starters in the middle and on the weakside respectively. Kelvin Shephard and Harry Coleman are competing for the starting job on the strongside. Sophomore Ryan Baker is up to 220 pounds and still looks very quick.

Freshman linebackers Barkevious Mingo and Kevin Minter have stood out. Mingo moved up to practice with the veterans for one day.

In the secondary, Patrick Peterson (pictured) and Chris Hawkins look to be the starters right now at cornerback. But Jai Eugene is competing with Hawkins for a position. Chad Jones has been working at free safety. But the other safety position is totally up for grabs. In a bit of a surprise, sophomore Brandon Taylor worked with the starters at strong safety in the first practice. Taylor was previously a cornerback, but the new defensive coaches have maintained they want the best players on the field. By cross-training Taylor at safety, it seems the staff is keeping true to their word. Karnell Hatcher and Ron Brooks are competing with Taylor as well. All of the guys mentioned above will likely see the field a good bit this season.

Sophomore safety Stefoin Francois has returned from injury and is practicing. He looks like he's in fantastic physical condiition.

Sophomore linebacker / fullback Kellen Theriot has not been with the team thus far, and it's apparently due to an issue with an injury.

True freshman safety Craig Loston is not with the team right now because he's still waiting to get cleared academically. It's unclear whether the hold-up is due to the NCAA Clearinghouse or whether Loston still has to finish some course work. LSU hopes to get him to practice once classes start near the end of August.


Georgia linebacker Michael Taylor committed to Tennessee. LSU was recruiting Taylor.

BASEBALL reported late last week that LSU signee Zach Von Rosenburg has decided to sign with the Pittsburgh Pirates rather than play college baseball at LSU. This was a significant loss for LSU, as they were expecting Zach to come to LSU.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Louisiana Recruiting Rankings


Though I released my rankings of Louisiana's top prospects in June, it was time to re-shuffle things a bit. Now that the summer camps and combines have taken place, I've been able to read quite a bit about how these players fared while going against top competition. Those performances, good and bad, influenced my opinions of some of these players. I may even put out a final set of rankings after their senior season is complete. Below is the latest. Feel free to offer feedback on my rankings using the Comments feature.

1 Trovon Reed WR Thibodaux HS (pictured above)
Considering: LSU, Auburn
Notes: Gets open with ease; gets tackled with great difficulty

2 Eric Reid S Dutchtown HS
Commitment: LSU
Notes: Elite prospect with almost no flaws

3 Ronnie Vinson ATH Newman HS New Orleans
Commitment: LSU
Notes: Could excel at four different positions; recruited as a CB

4 Jordan Allen DE West Monroe HS
Commitment: LSU
Notes: Has everything you want; a sure thing to contribute at next level

5 Tharold Simon ATH Eunice HS (pictured left)
Commitment: LSU
Notes: Looks great on both sides of ball; I think he's a WR

6 Nick Jacobs TE Many HS
Commitment: LSU
Notes: Great agility for someone who is 6'5" 245 lbs

7 James Wright WR Belle Chase HS
Considering: LSU, Alabama, Texas Tech
Notes: Lack of camp attendance has status in limbo

8 Jarrett Fobbs WR Huntington HS Shreveport
Commitment: Texas A&M
Notes: Underrated prospect by most; LSU offered as DB only

9 Curtis Carter ATH North De Soto HS
Considering: Nebraska, LSU, Alabama
Notes: Incredible speed but lack of size preventing LSU offer right now

10 Elliott Porter OL Shaw HS
Commitment: LSU
Notes: Much higher rated as an OG

11 Tyrann Mathieu CB St. Augustine HS
Commitment: LSU
Notes: Has everything you want from lockdown corner except size

12 Alfred Blue RB Hahnville HS
Considering: LSU, Ole Miss, Texas A&M, Arkansas
Notes: Rondell Mealey clone had impressive camp showing at LSU

13 Risean Broussard DT LaGrange HS Lake Charles
Commitment: Tennessee
Notes: Excels at camps; High ceiling but a bit of unknown due to injuries

14 DJ Welter LB Notre Dame HS Crowley (pictured right)
Commitment: LSU
Notes: Solid, safe guy with good size and speed; highlight film a bit underwhelming

15 Houston Bates LB/DE St Pauls HS Covington
Commitment: LSU
Notes: Tough, hard-nosed football player who produces; position in college unclear. LB, DE, FB?

16 Damien Jacobs DT Houma
Considering: Florida State, Nebraska, Arkansas, Ole Miss
Notes: Looks very good on film; could stand to shed some weight

17 Munchie Legaux QB Karr HS New Orleans
Considering: Baylor, Ole Miss, Oregon, Tennessee, West Virginia
Notes: Several poor camp showings dropped his stock, but still has loads of talent and huge upside

18 Jonathon McKnight CB John Curtis HS
Considering: Alabama, LSU, Ole Miss, Tennessee, Arkansas
Notes: Solid skills and speed but doesn't overwhelm you

19 Derrick Milton RB Pineville HS
Considering: Oklahoma, Auburn
Notes: Great camp performance, great film…highly underrated

20 Andre Hal CB Port Allen HS
Commitment: Vanderbilt
Notes: Good size and play making skills but film doesn't have wow factor

21 Drew Dileo WR Parkview Baptist HS Baton Rouge
Commitment: Michigan
Notes: Very underrated due to small size; could be Michigan's version of Darius Reynaud

22 Alex Hill OL Slidell HS
Considering: Nebraska, Missouri, Texas A&M, Auburn
Notes: Ability to play center increases his value; has several nice ofers

23 Armand Williams WR Slidell HS
Considering: Auburn, Tulsa, Tulane
Notes: Good size and tests off the charts at combines; very big ceiling

24 Brandon Jackson DT Evangel HS Shreveport
Commitment: Texas A&M
Notes: Very good quickness for big guy

25 Terrance Broadway QB Capitol HS Baton Rouge
Commitment: Houston
Notes: Once thought to be state's top prospect, stock has dropped significantly


Saturday Night Slant - LSU Sports & Recruiting