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Surprise, Surprise… Athlete McKenzie Picks Georgia

PLAYER UPDATESunshine State prospect Isaiah McKenzie has elected to play his football in the SEC, but not with his homestate Gators.  The RB/WR prospect has said this morning that he’ll ink with Georgia.

The Bulldogs beat out fellow SEC rivals Ole Miss, Tennessee, and the aforementioned Florida as well as Oregon, Notre Dame and Virginia Tech for McKenzie’s services.  Big get for Mark Richt and company.

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Alabama’s Saban “Sick And Tired” Of “BS” About McCarron’s Toe

gfx - they said itA quick tip for you: Don’t ask Nick Saban about quarterback AJ McCarron’s toe.  He’s tired of talking about “the most famous ingrown toe nail known to man.”

McCarron was spotted wearing a walking boot prior to the Tide’s season-opening win over Virginia Tech.  The uber-accurate quarterback then had a rough outing against the Hokies (10-of-23 for 110 yards a score and a pick), though part of his struggles could be blamed on a rebuilt offensive line that clearly needs to build some chemistry.

Regardless of McCarron’s performance, Saban’s grown weary of the toe talk saying he’s:

 

“…sort of sick and tired of talking about this BS because it’s nothing.  AJ’s mobility is fine.  His mobility was fine in the game and there was nothing wrong with him in the game.

We can make it something and make it an excuse, but really worrying about that kind of stuff rather than what you need to do to play well might be contributing to how you play.  To me, that’s the issue.”

 

Saban also made this declaration: “The people around (McCarron) need to play better so he has a chance to play well.”

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SEC Week 1 Gameday Links: Kicks Off With Florida, Ends With LSU

gameday-linksToledo at Florida

1. Opportunity for this Florida team to begin to eliminate the bitter taste of last season’s Sugar Bowl.

2. What a difference a year has made for Florida quarterback Jeff Driskel.  

Rice at Texas A&M

3. With a suspended Johnny Manziel out for the first half, can a Rice team that ended last season with a five-game winning streak give the Aggies a challenge?

4. Temperatures today at College Station are expected to reach 101 degreees.

5. Today’s game may be against Rice, but the focus for many Aggie fans is already Alabama.  ”Texas A&M’s countdown to the Alabama game officially starts at noon Saturday.”

Mississippi State vs Oklahoma State (Houston)

6. Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen is 4-0 in season openers but this is the first time he’s opened against a BCS opponent.

7. With three news starters in the secondary, the Bulldogs defense has its work cut out for it.

UL-Lafayette at Arkansas

8. As Arkansas opens the Bret Bielema era, here are 11 questions facing the Razorbacks.

9. Bielema:  ”I think we have a great chance (today) of going out and showing people what they’ve been waiting to see.”

Virginia Tech at Alabama

10. This is the fourth time in six years that Alabama has opened the season with a high profile matchup at a neutral site.

11. Alabama is perfect in season openers under Nick Saban.  Closest margin was 10 points – also against Virginia Tech.

Austin Peay at Tennessee

12. The Butch Jones era begins with all eyes on quarterback Justin Worley.

13. A Tennessee win would be its 800th in program history. Keep your eye on true freshman receiver Marquez North.

Washington State at Auburn

14. How often has Auburn coach Gus Malzahn said “new day” since he took over the Tigers program?  Only about a thousand times or so.

15. Zero interceptions for Auburn cornerbacks last season.  They’ll have plenty of opportunities against Mike Leach’s “Air Raid” offense. 94 percent of Washington State’s offense last season came through the air.

16. Washington State fans apparently enjoy their liquor.

Western Kentucky vs Kentucky (Nashville)

17. Coach Mark Stoops is the 12th coach to make his UK debut since Bear Bryant in 1946.

18. A big focus for Stoops since arriving on campus?  Restoring confidence.

Murray State at Missouri

19. Welcome back Henry Josey.  Tigers running back set to play in his first game since suffering a brutal knee injury against Texas in 2011.

20. Here’s something else the Tigers didn’t have last season – a healthy offensive line.

Georgia at Clemson

21. Never before has Georgia opened the season in a matchup featuring two top 10 teams.  That all changes tonight in Death Valley.

22. Georgia was loose in practice this week. “Emotion is ceasing to be a factor.”

23. Georgia quarterback Aarron Murray and his Clemson counterpart Tajh Boyd have known each other for five years.  Quarterback guru George Whitfield has watched them both progress to stardom.

TCU vs LSU (Arlington)

24. Third time that LSU has played at Jerry’s World.  Tigers have won last 10 season openers including eight in a row under Les Miles.

25. Lots of new things with this Tigers team.  New offensive coordinator and plenty of new faces on defense for LSU - including four true freshmen who could see playing time tonight.

26.  Will he or won’t he?  Will LSU running back Jeremy Hill see the field tonight?

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What’s Up With Alabama Quarterback AJ McCarron? Likely An Ingrown Toenail

FeetWith Alabama a prohibitive double-digit favorite against Virginia Tech later today, could there be any drama or suspense left before kickoff?  Yes.  Sort of.  If an ingrown toenail qualifies.

Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron was spotted wearing a walking boot and sources tell ESPN’s Mark Schlabach that he was wearing it because of an ingrown toenail.

AL.com says McCarron has no known injury, practiced all week and that walking boots are common when a player is not seriously injured.

Here’s the photographic proof from his arrival in Atlanta Friday.  Looks like something from an episode of ”Homeland.”  Will it impact his play?  I guess we’ll know more if ESPN brings in a podiatry expert.

Update: Alabama coach Nick Saban asked about the walking boot for McCarron this morning on ESPN. “Well this is the most famous in-grown toenail ever known to man. It makes it more comfortable to be in a boot because his hard-sole shoes hurt his feet. But his cleats don’t and he hasn’t missed any practice, and I think he’s fine for the game.”

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SEC Game Previews – 8/30/13

mrsec game previewTwo games down, 111 left to play until an SEC champion is crowned.  Today, we bring you the rest of our Game Preview capsules, a feature we’ll be bringing you each week throughout the season…

 

Toledo (0-0) at #10 Florida (0-0)

TV:  SEC Networwk, 12:21pm ET

Opening Line:  UF -21

Current Line:  UF -23.5

One To Watch:  He should have a strong defense and a tailback by committee to back him up, but the man to watch is Gator QB Jeff Driskel.  He says he’ll do less running this year which means his passing will need to improve.

This And That:

1.  Speaking of throwing the ball… the Gators finished dead last in the 14-team SEC in passing offense last year.  If UF hopes to compete for championships this fall, they’ll need average more than 146 yards per game through the air.

2.  Toledo will be a good early-season test for Will Muschamp’s defense.  The Rockets piled up more than 57-hundred yards of offense last season.  Against BCS foes, they lost at Arizona by seven and they upset Cincinnati by six.  Anyone forgotten the scare Louisiana-Lafayette gave Florida last year?

3.  With starter Matt Jones out, UF will likely stick behind the first running back to find a rhythm.  Mack Brown, Mark Herndon and Valdez Showers should all get some carries.

Prediction:  Florida 33, Toledo 17

 

Rice (0-0) at #7 Texas A&M (0-0)

TV:  ESPN, 1:00pm ET

Opening Line:  A&M -28

Current Line:  A&M -27

One To Watch:  Uh, who do you think?

This And That:

1.  Johnny Manziel will ride the pine in the first half due to an NCAA suspension.  This makes for two interesting angles to watch.  First, just how well will Kevin Sumlin’s offense operate without #2 on the field…

2.  And second, how will a fresh and rested Manziel look against a Rice defense that could already by tuckered out by halftime?  We’ve heard more about Johnny Football’s off-field exploits than his pass game this summer, but the QB has worked to improve himself as a pocket passer.  Will that show against the Fighting Pilafs?  I mean Owls.

3.  Texas A&M was minus-five in turnover margin for 2012.  Yet, thanks to the magic of a certain Heisman-winner, they still defied the odds to win 11 games.  Just to be safe, the Aggies need to break the turnover habit in 2013, starting tomorrow.

Prediction:  Texas A&M 44, Rice 20

 

Mississippi State (0-0) vs #13 Oklahoma State (0-0) at Houston

TV:  ABC/ESPN2, 3:30pm ET

Opening Line:  OSU -13

Current Line:  OSU -13

One To Watch:  Keep an eye on MSU corner Jamerson Love, the only DB in State’s top four cornerbacks to have started a game for the Bulldogs (and he’s started just two).  The entire secondary is really the one to watch, but if we’re narrowing things down, we’ll go with the, ahem, veteran.

This And That:

1.  Since arriving in Starkville, Dan Mullen record against non-conference BCS-level foes is 2-2 and two of those games were bowls.  The Dogs have avoided big-time foes while Mullen laid the groundwork for his program.  Now comes a “prove it” game against a ranked opponent to start the season.  This could be a very big one for Mullen.

2.  After a 7-0 start last season, MSU lost five of its last six games with four losses coming against ranked foes.  In four seasons under Mullen the Bulldogs are just 2-16 against ranked opponents, 0-8 the last two years.  Did we mention that this one could be a big game for Mullen?

3.  Oklahoma State’s pass offense ranked #7 in the nation last year and tomorrow they’ll face an MSU cornerback quartet that features a junior with two starts, a sophomore, a juco transfer and a redshirt freshman.  States new DBs are in for a baptism by fire.

Prediction:  Oklahoma State 37, Mississippi State 20

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WOW Headlines – 8/26/13

Despite an ongoing NCAA investigation, it appears that Texas A&M QB Johnny Manziel will play Saturday in his school’s season-openerIt is “highly possible” that LSU will suspend RB Jeremy Hill from its season-opener vs TCU due to an arrest this past offseason
Kentucky S Ashley Lowery will play in the Wildcats season-opener despite an offseason DUI
Tennessee QB Justin Worley as won the starting job for the Vols’ season-opener
Arkansas could have at least 20 players make their Razorback debut in this week’s season-opener
Virginia Tech is a 20-point underdog to Alabama this weekend… the biggest line against the Hokies since 1992

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One Alabama Defender Suspended, One Reinstated

revolving-door-cartoonA pair of Alabama defenders must have passed each other as they moved through the revolving door to Suspension Land.  Sophomore cornerback Geno Smith was handed a one-game suspension for his DUI arrest over the weekend.  Linebacker Trey DePriest was reinstated to the Tide football team after a one-week suspension.

As for Smith, Nick Saban says that in addition to being suspended from Bama’s opener against Virginia Tech, the Tide’s top nickelback will have to jump through other “in house” hoops to gain reinstatement.  The coach addressed the situation after yesterday’s practice:

 

“We’ve never had an issue with Geno.  He’s an excellent person.  He’s never been in trouble here before, never been in my office for anything, but I think this is something that everybody should learn from that when you make a bad choice, sometimes the consequences of that choice can really have a negative effect.

Some of these guys don’t have enough foresight to understand cause and effect, but Geno has been a really good person in the program and just made a choice, bad decision.  Made several of them, so now he’s got consequences for it.

I think if you think it’s appropriate and necessary that you take something away from somebody, something that’s important to somebody, ten that’s going to have a bigger impact in their behavior.  That’s what we thought was appropriate in this case and that’s why we did it.  We didn’t do it to hurt anybody.  We didn’t do it to satisfy anybody.  We did it in the best interest of the player.  Hopefully, this will be something that will help him make better decisions in the future.”

 

Saban will take a bit of heat for handing down a suspension for one game and one game only.  The Tide’s next foe after Virginia Tech?  Texas A&M at College Station.  Had Smith been playing at Georgia and gotten arrested with a DUI, he would have automatically gotten two games on the bench as part of school policy.  Good thing he’s at one of the other 13 SEC schools where coaches can hand out any amount of discipline they desire.  In Saban’s case, at least he handed down a one-game suspension and explained the thinking behind it.

Meanwhile, as noted above, Saban reinstated the starting junior linebacker, DePriest.  Saban also discussed that decision after yesterday’s practice:

 

“Trey did everything we asked him to do.  Took care of his business, did everything to a T.  He’s got to work his way back up the depth chart now by continuing to do the right things and having the right attitude.  Hopefully he’ll make better choices and decisions in the future.”

 

No reason — other than “violation of team rules” — was ever given in regards to DePriest.

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SEC Headlines 6/27/2013

headlines-thuSEC Football

1. “There’s no way to dress this up: Alabama’s schedule is awful…It couldn’t be set up better for a return trip to the BCS National Championship Game.”

2. About Oregon’s NCAA punishment.  “It may be left to Alabama to punish the Ducks in the final BCS Championship Game.”

3. Jeff Schultz  is bullish on Georgia:  ”I can foresee a scenario where the Bulldogs lose their season opener at Clemson and win every other game.”

4. A breakdown of the entire Tennessee roster.  How each player was ranked by recruiting services.

5. Vanderbilt offensive line coach Herb Hand is a finalist for a series on the Food Network.

6. South Carolina wide receiver Damiere Bird: “Is this the year he puts it all together and becomes a more consistent, every-down receiver?”

7. Is sophomore defensive end Channing Ward looking at a mid-career redshirt season at Ole Miss?

8. Is wide receiver the weakest position at Mississippi State?

9. Stewart Mandel on Johnny Manziel: “I’d be willing to bet that plenty of other former Heisman winners would have gotten themselves into hot water had Twitter existed during their day.”

SEC Basketball

10. NBA draft tonight. Just two former SEC players projected to go in first round.

11. Jay Bilas on Kentucky’s Archie Goodwin:  ”I’ve got him slated as top of the second round. He’s talented enough to be a first-round pick.”

12. Nerlens Noel on his recovery from knee surgery and when you could see him on an NBA court:  ”I’m on accelerated rehab, so hopefully around October, November.”

13. Kentucky coach John Calipari on the player Cleveland may – or may not – take with the first overall pick.  ”If you want to pass on him because someone help win faster, go ahead. But just realize the potential and drive that you’re missing.”

14. Florida’s Erik Murphy projected as a second-round pick.  Hoping to become the 35th player in UF history drafted.

15. Arkansas coach Mike Anderson on guard B.J. Young: “There is tremendous interest in B.J. and his potential.”

16. Phil Pressey’s decision to leave Missouri - “best for all concerned that he made the choice he did.” Orlando in the second round for Pressey? Or maybe...Boston?

17. Complete SEC draft history - from 1949 through 2012.

18. Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy on the NCAA reprimand given to guard Marshall Henderson: “Marshall has accepted responsibility for his actions, and we are moving forward.”

19. A crowded backcourt at Tennessee.  Time for a four-guard offense?

20. Mike DeCourcy on the trend toward redesigned basketball courts.  “What’s on the middle of the court at Duke? At Kentucky? At Louisville? Can anyone picture it?” MrSEC covered some of this ground on Monday.

Extras

21. Be prepared to hear the phrase “taken out of context” from attorneys representing Aaron Hernandez. A connection to a Boston double-homicide?

22. Police have made a second arrest in connection with the murder of Odin Lloyd.

23. Las Vegas and the Aaron Hernandez effect.

24. On July 1, the Big East officially returns to its basketball-first ways.

25. Kirk Herbstreit isn’t going anywhere.  Signs ESPN extension through 2022.

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SEC Recruiting Notebook: Academics A Focus For Nation’s Top Recruit

sec-recruiting-notebook-gfxThe nation’s top football recruit will consider more than just football when he makes his college decision.

That fact became clear this week when defensive end Da’Shawn Hand from Woodbridge (Va.) Senior High School announced his top three schools are Alabama, Florida and Michigan. Missing was Virginia Tech, once considered by many analysts to be the favorite to land Hand.

What took Virginia Tech and South Carolina, another school Hand was considering, out of the running? It was academics, not football.

“I eliminated Virginia Tech because they don’t offer a sports marketing program,” Hand said, according to SB Nation. “And with South Carolina, the professor just didn’t wow us. I have the utmost respect for Virginia Tech and South Carolina and their coaches and wish them the best of luck.”

It’s a strong statement by Hand, who’s ranked the nation’s No. 1 prospect by Rivals. Prospects often mention their education as an important factor in their recruitment but rarely eliminate schools so early in the process simply based on academic concern.

That’s what helped the top three schools Hand is considering.

“At Michigan, the (sports marketing) program was so impressive, I wanted to sign up right there,” he said. “During my visit to Alabama, I met the dean of their (sports marketing) program, and it’s an excellent program. He actually played football and he gets it. And I haven’t been to Florida yet, but I’ve heard their defensive coaching staff and that defensive line with coach (Brad) Lawing and coach D.J. Dunkin is amazing. And Alabama’s engineering program was working on a $25 million project when I was down there.”

As impressive as it is that Hand is focused on academics, the story will end up being the impact he can make as a football player.

Michigan is considered the favorite to land Hand, according to analysts at 247Sports. Among the analysts making their prediction, 55 percent predict Hand will pick Michigan. But not everyone has updated their predictions, with 12 percent of the votes still going to Virginia Tech.

JC Shurburtt was one analyst to switch his prediction to Alabama, citing a “source” as the reason for picking the Crimson Tide. And there’s plenty of time for things to change between now and the day Hand signs with a school. But one thing is for sure: Hand will consider more than just football.

 

Williams chooses Kentucky

Add Stanley Williams to the growing list of prospects who want to play for Kentucky.

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SI’s Staples Weighs In On A&M, Mizzou Moves

missouri-texas-am-logoSports Illustrated’s Andy Staples has today ranked all of the major conference realignment moves that have taken place in the past three seasons.  The best move?  Texas A&M’s to the SEC.  Among the many reasons the Aggies’ move got an A grade from Staples:

 

“… this union was a perfect cultural fit.  Fans at other Big 12 schools considered the buzzcut-sporting, whooping Aggies a tad odd.  Most SEC fan bases believe there’s something wrong with a school if its fans aren’t odd.  The Longhorns, who have the quietest 100,000 fans in America on fall Saturdays, look down on the Aggies.  Florida, LSU and Alabama fans just said, ‘Welcome to the Party.’”

 

But Staples’ take on Missouri — he gave the Tigers’ move a C — is a bit more interesting:

 

“One bad football season does not make this a terrible move.  Remember, in the preceding five years, Missouri was much better at football than Texas A&M.  The Tigers certainly need to get better on the football field — because their new rivals in the SEC East aren’t getting any worse — but calling this move a mistake because of one lousy football season is premature.  If, in 10 years, Missouri has not moved out of the SEC’s cellar, then feel free to say that the Tigers traded a world of pain for the financial security of the SEC.

As far as the SEC goes, Missouri was the only choice everyone could agree upon in the situation the league faced in 2012.  Some presidents and athletic directors wanted Florida State, but they faced fierce opposition from a bloc led by Florida and Georgia.  The most logical additions would have been Virginia Tech or NC State — which would have been geographic fits that opened new television markets — but neither wanted to leave the ACC.  Missouri was geographically contiguous and added two decent-sized television markets (St. Louis and Kansas City).  It also gave the SEC another AAU member.  Of course, if (former Ohio State president) Gordon Gee is to be believed, the Big Ten will try to snatch Missouri down the road.  That would be interesting, but it seems highly unlikely.”

 

Technically, Gee said that he would have liked to have added Missouri and Kansas already and that he could see that “potentially” happening in the future.  Gee is also known for making bizarro comments from far out in left field.  We at MrSEC.com don’t believe he was anymore speaking for Jim Delany and the Big Ten with regards to Missouri than he was when he made a poor joke about Catholics.

To a more interesting topic, the SEC’s expansion plans post-A&M were and are still shrouded in mystery.  Word leaked out quickly that Missouri and the SEC were playing footsie (as we had suggested might happen way back in the summer of 2010).  As for all the other schools mentioned, well, that depends on each writer’s sources.

Oklahoma was mentioned as a potential candidate because Mike Slive had spoken with Sooner brass a year earlier.  We don’t believe there was much to that.

Folks close to West Virginia University will tell you that Slive and Mountaineer AD Oliver Luck were secretly hoping Missouri would pass on the SEC and leave the door open for WVU.  The problem there?  If the SEC wanted the Mountaineers why didn’t Slive and company just invite them in the first place?

NC State and Virginia Tech were kicked around by several websites as potential targets should the SEC drive toward 16 schools at some point.  But at MrSEC, we never heard much talk about the two — aside from fan chatter — during the push to 14.

Several sources have said that Slive has longed for North Carolina and Duke for ages.  One ACC source even claimed to The Sporting News that the SEC commissioner had been wooing those schools for several years.  Obviously, if wooing went on, that wooing did not work.

Florida State would have been a brand name “get” — much like the Big Ten’s addition of Nebraska — but the SEC was more interested in growing its footprint in 2011 and adding cable households to its portfolio.  Only this offseason have we learned that FSU officials approached SEC officials — in 2013, according to reports — to see if the league Florida State once spurned might still have an interest in the school.  That answer was no.

The fact of the matter is we’ll likely never know for sure just who the SEC did speak with — either officially or unofficially — during the summer and fall of 2011.  What we do know is that Texas A&M and Missouri were the final choices.  And it will take a number of years to determine whether or not the SEC, A&M and Mizzou are a good match long-term.

 

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