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July 15, 2013

Auburn Season Preview: Scouting Georgia

BY RYAN BLACK | rblack@ledger-enquirer.com


With the 2013 season drawing closer by the minute, it’s never too early to begin taking a look at Auburn’s opponents in the coming campaign. On the sixth and final day of our series, we begin with the Georgia Bulldogs. The Tigers will host the Bulldogs for the second straight season in Game No. 11 this fall.

Who: Georgia

When: Saturday, Nov. 16UGA

Where: Jordan-Hare Stadium (87,451) | Auburn, Ala.

All-time series: Series tied 54-54-8

When last they met: It was a dismal night for Auburn when Georgia came to town last season. With an opportunity to play spoiler and prevent the Bulldogs from winning the SEC Eastern Division title for the second straight year, the Tigers could get nothing going offensively, never scoring in a 38-0 loss. Georgia’s defense was playing better than it had all season, as the shutout against Auburn came after allowing nine points and 10 points to Florida and Ole Miss, respectively, in its previous two games. While the Tigers’ offense couldn’t score, the defense was unable to find an answer to slow down the Bulldogs’ balanced attack. Georgia ran for 289 yards — with freshmen phenoms Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall combining for 221 yards and a touchdown apiece — while quarterback Aaron Murray was coolly efficient, completing 75 percent of his attempts (18 of 24) for 208 yards and three scores. The Bulldogs’ shutout was the first in the series since they won 28-0 in 1976, and the victory evened the all-time record in “The Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry” at 54-54-8. The only cheer of the night from the Tiger faithful came when Jordan-Hare Stadium’s video board put the end of the Alabama/Texas A&M game on the screen just before kickoff against the Bulldogs. When the Aggies completed the upset to snap the top-ranked Crimson Tide’s 13-game win streak, Auburn fans were given a brief moment to revel in their arch-rival’s defeat.

The coach: Mark Richt (118-40 record in 12 seasons at Georgia)

2012 record: 12-2, 7-1 SEC (won SEC Eastern Division title; lost to Alabama 32-28 in SEC Championship Game; beat Nebraska 45-31 in Capital One Bowl)

Total offense: 467.64 ypg (22nd in Division I, 3rd in SEC)

Scoring offense: 37.79 ppg (19th, 3rd)

Total defense: 357.79 ypg (32nd, 6th)

Scoring defense: 19.64 ppg (18th, 6th)

2012 Year-in-Review: In nearly any other season, and at nearly any other school, 12 wins and a bowl victory would be cause for massive celebrations. But Georgia’s feelings on those accomplishments were subdued, since it knew how much greater last season could have been. Coming within five yards of beating Alabama in the SEC Championship Game in a 32-28 defeat meant the Bulldogs saw their dreams of playing in the BCS National Championship Game dashed in the most agonizing way possible. The Bulldogs started out the season with two of their best defenders — free safety Bacarri Rambo and inside linebacker Alec Ogletree — on the sideline for the first four games after reportedly failing drug tests. The defense, not surprisingly, was an up-and-down unit in their absence, usually putting one good half together in each of the team’s first five games, all victories. Then came South Carolina. The Gamecocks dominated the Bulldogs in every facet of a 35-7 demolition, making a laugher out of a game that pitted the No. 5 (Georgia) and No. 6 (South Carolina) teams in the country heading into the weekend. Two weeks later, Georgia got by SEC doormat Kentucky by the skin of its teeth in a 29-24 win, causing strong safety Shawn Williams — who rarely made himself available for interviews —  to call out his defensive teammates in front of media members for “playing soft” two days later. Coincidentally, Williams made his comments during the week of the Florida game. That lit a fire under the Bulldogs’ defense, as it allowed only 45 points over its next five games. While the defense took until the midway point of the season to find itself, Georgia’s offense was in a rhythm seemingly from the get-go. The Bulldogs set numerous records on offense on the arm of Murray and the two-headed tandem of Gurley and Marshall at tailback, including most points in a season (529) and highest average per game (37.8). After Georgia lost the SEC Championship Game to Alabama, it rebounded to beat Nebraska in the Capital One Bowl 45-31, the Bulldogs’ first bowl victory since the 2009 Independence Bowl against then-Big 12 member Texas A&M.

Biggest area of concern: Many may look at the linebacking unit and see that both master-of-havoc Jarvis Jones and Ogletree have taken their services to the NFL, and from there, draw conclusions that the unit was in serious trouble this fall. And that line of thinking couldn’t be more wrong. Yes, Jones and Ogletree were key contributors on the defense, but Jordan Jenkins, who roomed with Jones on every road trip last season, was being groomed to take Jones’ place whenever the Columbus native left. Jenkins proved it on the field, finishing second on the team in sacks (five) — behind his mentor, of course. Another starter at linebacker, junior Amarlo Herrera, will also be back to provide additional leadership. No, the area of greatest concern for the Bulldogs this season is the secondary. Losing three senior starters in Williams, Rambo and Sanders Commings — as well as longtime starter Branden Smith, who was knocked out of the starting lineup by Damian Swann last year — leaves the back end of Georgia’s defense to young, inexperienced players. Aside from Swann at one cornerback spot, the other three positions in the secondary are still fluid heading into the Bulldogs’ preseason camp.

Key returning player/unit: Undoubtedly, the most important piece back for the Bulldogs is their fifth-year signal-caller, Murray. He returns for one last go-round in the SEC on the verge of breaking nearly every passing-related record in league history. In 2012, he became the first SEC quarterback to pass for 3,000-plus yards in three straight seasons. He needs just 1,438 yards to break David Greene’s school and conference record for passing yards (11,528) and with 95 touchdown passes, Murray is only behind former Florida quarterback Danny Wuerffel (114) on the SEC’s all-time list. To knock Wuerffel out of the top spot, Murray must toss 20 touchdown passes this season. Given what he has returning on offense — the Bulldogs are bringing back 10 starters from last season — it’s a good bet the Tampa, Fla., native becomes the record holder in both departments as long as he stays healthy.

Extra point: Georgia’s 12 wins last year marked only the third time in school history it had recorded that many victories in a single season. The other two teams (1980 and 2002) both won the SEC title. The 1980 team also won the national championship that year, while the 2002 squad set a school record for most wins in a season with 13.


Washington State

Arkansas State

Mississippi State

Florida Atlantic



January 19, 2013

Nearly half the NFL Draft’s 73 declared underclassmen hail from the SEC

Auburn v. LSU Football Action

The NFL officially released its list Saturday of a record 73 underclassmen who have been granted special eligibility to be selected in the 2013 NFL Draft, a further commentary on the gap between SEC football and everybody else.

On the list are 32 players hailing from SEC schools.

From LSU alone, there are 11.

From the entire Pac-12, the SEC’s nearest competitor? Nine.

Now, submitting one’s name for the Draft, and thus foregoing any remaining college eligibility, does not guarantee an NFL team will come calling on April 25-27. Many juniors have tried their luck at the Draft, only to find themselves waiting on free agent calls from teams looking through the bargain bin or filling out a practice squad.

However, the NFL provides a service for players who have completed three years in college to submit paperwork to a committee which reviews game film and other factors, sending back an approximated grade of where that player might be taken in the Draft.

LSU’s whopping list of 11 underclassmen leaving the program includes five players who were listed anywhere on the all-SEC squads in the 2012 season – as well as Tyrann Mathieu, the “Honey Badger” and cornerback/returner phenom who was dismissed from the program following the 2011 season for failing drug tests.

Florida and Tennessee each have four Draft hopefuls going out, while Georgia has three, including consensus All-American linebacker Jarvis Jones, nose tackle Kwame Geathers and linebacker Alec Ogletree.

Alabama is bidding adieu to tailback Eddie Lacy and cornerback Dee Milliner, while Auburn sends off defensive end Corey Lemonier.

The NFL’s complete list of declared underclassmen can be found here.



Eddie Lacy RB

Dee Milliner DB


Alvin Bailey G

Knile Davis RB


Corey Lemonier DE


Matt Elam DB

Sharrif Floyd DT

Jelani Jenkins LB

Jordan Reed TE


Kwame Geathers NT

Jarvis Jones LB

Alec Ogletree LB

LSU (11)

Chris Faulk T

Michael Ford RB

Bennie Logan DT

Tyrann Mathieu DB

Barkevious Mingo DE

Kevin Minter LB

Sam Montgomery DE

Eric Reid DB

Tharold Simon DB

Spencer Ware RB

Brad Wing P


Sheldon Richardson DT


Marcus Lattimore RB

Ace Sanders WR


Tyler Bray QB

Justin Hunter WR

Cordarrelle Patterson WR

Darrington Sentimore DT


Luke Joeckel T

Damontre Moore DE

December 14, 2012

Georgia’s Jarvis Jones, three Crimson Tide named to the FWAA All-America squad Friday

DALLAS (FWAA) – Georgia linebacker and Columbus Carver product Jarvis Jones was named to the 69th Football Writers Association of America All-America Team, announced Friday.

Jarvis Jones and Alabama center Barrett Jones are the only two-time nominations on this FWAA’s squad, repeating the feat from 2011.

The powerful Southeastern Conference, which has claimed the last six national football championships and has a chance for a seventh next month, placed 11 of the 26 selections, including three players from Alabama.

Among the star-studded lineup of players on the team was Bronko Nagurski Trophy winner Manti Te’o of Notre Dame, Outland Trophy winner Luke Joeckel of Texas A&M and Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel of Texas A&M.

Alabama had Barrett Jones, offensive tackle Chance Warmack and defensive back Dee Milliner. Texas A&M placed offensive tackles Joeckel and Jake Matthews, Manziel, and defensive end Damontre Moore on the squad. SEC teams LSU, Mississippi State, South Carolina and Georgia also had one player each on the team.

Manziel, who is the first freshman quarterback in the 69-year history of the FWAA team, is the only freshman (redshirt) on the 2012 team. And there were only two sophomores, defensive end Jadeveon Clowney of South Carolina and wide receiver Marqise Lee of USC.

The FWAA All-America Committee selected three wide receivers on the team because of the depth of talent at the position and dropped the tight end. Another oddity was the team included two Outland Trophy winners. Jones was the 2011 Outland winner as a junior when he played tackle.


QB Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M (6-1, 200, Fr., Kerrville, Texas)
RB Kenjon Barner, Oregon (5-11, 192, Sr., Riverside, Calif.)
RB Jonathan Franklin, UCLA (5-11, 195, Sr., Los Angeles, Calif.)
WR Stedman Bailey, West Virginia (5-10, 195, Jr., Miami, Fla.)
WR Marqise Lee, USC (6-0, 195, So., Inglewood, Calif.)
WR Terrance Williams, Baylor (6-2, 205, Sr., Dallas, Texas)
OL Jonathan Cooper, North Carolina (6-3, 295, Sr., Wilmington, N.C.)
OL Luke Joeckel, Texas A&M (6-6, 310, Jr., Arlington, Texas)
OL Jake Matthews, Texas A&M (6-5, 305, Jr., Missouri City, Texas)
OL Chance Warmack, Alabama (6-3, 320, Sr., Atlanta, Ga.)
C Barrett Jones, Alabama (6-5, 302, Sr., Germantown, Tenn.)

DL Jadeveon Clowney, South Carolina (6-6, 256, So., Rock Hill, S.C.)
DL Chris Jones, Bowling Green (6-1, 293, Sr., Brownsburg, Ind.)
DL Damontre Moore, Texas A&M (6-4, 250, Jr., Rowlett, Texas)
DL Bjoern Werner, Florida State (6-4, 255, Jr., Berlin, Germany)
LB Arthur Brown, Kansas State (6-1, 231, Sr., Wichita, Kan.)
LB Manti Te’o, Notre Dame (6-2, 255, Sr., Laie, Hawaii)
LB Jarvis Jones, Georgia (6-3, 241, Jr., Columbus, Ga.)
DB Johnthan Banks, Mississippi State (6-2, 185, Sr., Maben, Miss.)
DB Dee Milliner, Alabama (6-1, 199, Jr., Millbrook, Ala.)
DB Eric Reid, LSU (6-2, 212, Jr., Geismar, La.)
DB Phillip Thomas, Fresno State (6-1, 215, Sr., Bakersfield, Calif.)

K Cairo Santos, Tulane (5-8, 160, Jr., St. Augustine, Fla.)
P Ryan Allen, Louisiana Tech (6-2, 215, Sr., Salem, Ore.)
KR Dri Archer, Kent State (5-8, 175, Jr., Laurel, Fla.)
PR Venric Mark, Northwestern (5-8, 175, Jr., Tomball, Texas)

November 30, 2012

The Hangover, Part XII: Scouting Georgia and Alabama, with ESPN.com’s Edward Aschoff

ATLANTA — No Auburn game this weekend, but I’m still covering football, so we need a breakdown from one of the best in the business.

Instead of traipsing behind enemy lines this weekend – Seth and Mark served us well for the Georgia and Alabama games – we go neutral, catching up with ESPN SEC blogger Edward Aschoff (@AschoffESPN). Dude knows his stuff, as I found out when he covered Auburn against Mississippi State and LSU … and he’ll be among the masses covering this national semifinal also known as the SEC Championship Game at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta. Let’s go 5 Questions-style, for old times’ sake.

Aaron Brenner, WarEagleExtra.com: Both Georgia and Alabama had their gut-check moments this year: the Bulldogs got slaughtered at South Carolina and momentum was slow to return, while the Crimson Tide were knocked off on their own field by Texas A&M and nearly taken out of the national title picture. Is there a hidden advantage to being humbled on the way to the postseason?

Edward Aschoff, ESPN.com: I think so. Obviously, no team ever wants to lose, but when you have so much talent and everyone is telling you just how good you are, it can be nice to get humbled in some form or fashion. For Alabama and Georgia, their humbling moments came from losses. Jarvis Jones told me this week that losing that game made the defense realize how great it wasn’t. It made those players realize that talent alone wasn’t going to win games. They had to come together more as a unit and they had to throw away the arrogance. They knew how talented they were, but they weren’t playing like it. For Alabama, I think it just made them mad. They’d heard about how there were holes in the secondary and they showed it against LSU and A&M. You know how much those Alabama players/coaches hate being told they aren’t perfect.

Brenner: AJ McCarron has the big-game clutch gene, but Aaron Murray has the big-time stats. Who has the advantage Saturday at quarterback?

Aschoff: I think McCarron does. The first year that he was a starter, he played in and won the national championship. Remember, he hasn’t been here in the SEC Championship before. He went straight to the big game, but he played arguably his best game in an Alabama uniform. And the coaches told him they wanted him to control the game, not Trent Richardson. That’s huge. Murray has historically struggled in big games. He has just three wins against Top-25 teams and if not for an awful offensive performance from Florida, he wouldn’t even be in Atlanta after he threw three interceptions against the Gators. He told me this spring that he has a tendency to take on too much responsibility in big games and loses trust in his players. That makes him force throws, which lead to turnovers. He can’t be “Big Game Aaron” on Saturday because the pressure is on, and there’s more on him than McCarron.

Brenner: Manti Te’o gets all this talk about Heisman candidacy, but none of that seems to go Jarvis Jones’ way. Where do you rank Jones nationally, and how huge a game does he need to have to give Georgia a chance?

Aschoff: He is a game-changer. He’s like a bigger, stronger, more terrifying version of the Honey Badger. He finds ways to get to every play. He hunts the ball down like the Tyrann Mathieu did at LSU last year. Just look at the Florida game. You could argue that the Bulldogs don’t win that game without Jones making all of those plays. If he hadn’t have been injured this season, I think he’d get a lot more love nationally. Te’o is great, but you could argue that Jones, Damontre Moore (Texas A&M) and Jadeveon Clowney (South Carolina) are just as good, if not better in the way that they dominate and change games. Georgia needs him to have a big game because Alabama is extremely balanced and Jones has the ability to take take momentum away.

Brenner: The cheapest ticket on StubHub for the SEC Championship Game is floating around $300. You can get in pretty easily to the ACC title game for 3 bucks. What does this tell us?

Aschoff: That tells you that the SEC championship game is the hottest ticket in the country because it actually means something every year. You’ll see Gators fans, LSU fans and Gamecocks fans at this thing because it is a semi-final for the national championship game and it has been for the last seven years. No other conference can say that, especially the ACC.

Brenner: Straight up, who do you like to run this town Saturday night? Tide or Dawgs?

Aschoff: I have the Tide winning 28-17. I just think that Alabama is angry. The Tide wanted to be undefeated and wanted to prove the doubters wrong. It didn’t help getting into the national championship. It destroyed its last two inferior opponents and it wants to do the same to Georgia. I don’t think Georgia’s line can keep Murray upright all game and I just think that with some of these players seeing two national championships before, the bright lights won’t get to Alabama. Did I mention that Alabama is angry and is ready to prove people wrong again?

November 28, 2012

SEC Power Rankings: Bowl Season Edition

AUBURN, Ala. – I need a break from the words “Gene Chizik”, “sources”, “buyout”, “decommit”, “Bobby Petrino”, “sources” again, “Kirby Smart”, “Jetgate”, “SportsbyBrooks”, “Charles Barkley”, “show cause penalty” and “sources” a third time just because, yeah, seriously, it’s getting repetitive.

We interrupt this lead-in to inform you because I successfully used all those words in one sentence, and tagged this blog post as such, this is now the eighth-highest clicked article in Internet history. (The first seven all just list the word ‘Tebow’ over and over again.)

Anyway, you’ll find none of those words in my final SEC Power Rankings of the year. Enjoy the reprieve. I know I will. It won’t last long.

By the way, unless a new coach is named Friday (don’t do it, Auburn), I will be at the SEC Championship Game in Atlanta, joined by L-E preps writer David Mitchell (@leprepsports) and supplementing the already-fine coverage of Mark Edwards (who covers Alabama at @DailyEdwards) and Seth Emerson (Georgia, @SethEmerson). So follow along for that.

It should be a fantastic game. At least, I was told so by reports from an unnamed source with information close to the situation.

Aaron Brenner, Columbus Ledger-Enquirer 

**All rankings BCS**

1) No. 2 Alabama (11-1, 7-1 SEC); Last week, 1

Last week: beat Auburn 49-0

The back eight seems impenetrable. There’s really any number of ‘player of the year’ candidates on this team, which I will go ahead and name for each of the SEC squads. C.J. Mosley, Dee Milliner, Robert Lester, it’s just an uber-dominant defense. Good luck out there, Aaron Murray.

Next: SEC Championship Game vs. No. 3 Georgia (11-1, 7-1), 3 p.m. CT | CBS

Player of the Year: C.J. Mosley, jr., LB

Bowl prediction: BCS National Championship

2) No. 3 Georgia (11-1, 7-1); LW, 2

Last week: beat Georgia Tech 42-10

Oh, but Murray will have plenty of help. Todd Gurley’s the SEC’s best back, Keith Marshall’s the best backup back in the league, Jarvis Jones is maybe the best linebacker in the country. This should be a phenomenal game at the Georgia Dome.

Next: SEC Championship Game vs. No. 2 Alabama (11-1, 7-1), 3 p.m. CT | CBS

Player of the Year: Aaron Murray, jr., QB

Bowl prediction: Capital One Bowl

3) No. 9 Texas A&M (10-2, 6-2 SEC); LW, 3

Last week: beat Missouri 59-29

Manziel, not Boyziel. Despite not speaking once to the media during the year, he’ll handle himself brilliantly in New York City a week from Saturday.

Player of the Year: Johnny Manziel, fr., QB

Bowl prediction: Cotton Bowl

4) No. 4 Florida (11-1, 7-1); LW, 5

Last week: beat No. 10 Florida State 37-26

The Gators have not allowed a single rushing gain longer than 24 yards all year. Filthy. And now they just hung 37 on the Seminoles in Tallahassee? You earned your Sugar Bowl trip.

Player of the Year: Marcus Roberson, so., DB

Bowl prediction: Sugar Bowl

5) No. 7 LSU (10-2, 6-2); LW, 4

Last week: beat Arkansas 20-13

So it sounds like Les Miles will not leave the Bayou for a ridiculous, bluff-type offer at Arkansas. Hopefully LSU gave Miles that raise because he earned it, not because a desperate league rival wants to play poker. Said LSU athletic director Joe Alleva Wednesday: “It’s been my plan all along to give coach a longer contract, and that’s what we’re doing.”

Player of the Year: Kevin Minter, jr., LB

Bowl prediction: Outback Bowl

6) No. 10 South Carolina (10-2, 6-2); LW, 6

Last week: beat No. 11 Clemson 27-17

The Gators and Gamecocks are basically twins this year. Except, well, Florida won the matchup. Which is why South Carolina is the sixth best team in its own conference, and can’t even book a New Year’s Day date in a historically top-heavy league.

Player of the Year: Jadeveon Clowney, so., DE

Bowl prediction: Chick-Fil-A Bowl


*****big gap here*****


7) Vanderbilt (8-4, 5-3); LW, 7

Last week: beat Wake Forest 55-21

If I were to tell you two teams in the SEC have six-game overall winning streaks (currently the longest in the conference), and gave you five guesses, I bet many of you would miss one. Georgia is one. The other is not Texas A&M, it’s not LSU, it’s not South Carolina. The Vanderbilt Commodores have not lost since losing gamely to Florida on Oct. 13.  They’ll trounce someone in a lesser bowl.

Player of the Year: Jordan Matthews, jr., WR

Bowl prediction: Gator Bowl

8) Ole Miss (6-6, 3-5); LW, 9

Last week: beat Mississippi State 41-24

Great bounceback effort after a three-game losing streak, sealing that long-awaited bowl eligibility. How about Bo Wallace, teetering on losing his job earlier this year, and responding by throwing five touchdowns in his biggest game of the year?

Player of the Year: Donte Moncrief, so., WR

Bowl prediction: Liberty Bowl

9) Mississippi State (8-4, 4-4); LW, 8

Last week: lost to Ole Miss 41-24

Chad Bumphis, 12 TDs. For a defensive conference, this certainly was a year for top receivers. Very little momentum though for the Bulldogs, losers of four in their past five.

Player of the Year: Darius Slay, sr., DB

Bowl prediction: Music City Bowl

10) Arkansas (4-8, 2-6); LW, 10

Last week: lost to No. 7 LSU 20-13

Eight months, the school has had, to make a decision on a long-term hire. Offering Les Miles the world shows you where the Razorbacks are at. This is by far the weakest of the three remaining SEC openings.

Player of the Year: Cobi Hamilton, sr., WR

11) Missouri (5-7, 2-6); LW, 11

Last week: lost to No. 9 Texas A&M 59-29

Talk about slinking away quietly. Not a lot of positives to build on going into year two of SEC football. Maybe the Big Ten should have gotten a longer look.

Player of the Year: Kendial Lawrence, sr., RB

12) Tennessee (5-7, 1-7); LW, 12

Last week: beat Kentucky 37-17

Next season hinges heavily on Tyler Bray’s decision whether or not to return.

Player of the Year: Cordarrelle Patterson, jr., WR

13) Auburn (3-9, 0-8); LW, 13

Last week: lost to No. 2 Alabama 49-0

“The Auburn people don’t deserve that.” said a certain former head coach. Was he talking about the three-hour slaughter just finished on the field, or the three-month disaster preceding it?

Player of the Year: Tre Mason, so., RB

14) Kentucky (2-10, 0-8); LW, 14

Last week: lost to Tennessee 37-17

Best of luck, Mark Stoops. If you last three years, it’ll be a modern marvel.

Player of the Year: Avery Williamson, jr., LB

Eight SEC players named AFCA All-America

Eight SEC players were named All-Americans Wednesday by the American Football Coaches Association, including an eye-popping six defenders.

And the conference could have made it even more, except for the coaches pushing for a couple of key Clemson players.

Alabama led the charge with linebacker C.J. Mosley, cornerback Dee Milliner and offensive guard Chance Warmack. But top center Barrett Jones was supplanted by Clemson snapper Dalton Freeman.

Texas A&M landed a pair with defensive end Damontre Moore and offensive tackle Luke Joeckel, though Heisman candidate Johnny Manziel – a redshirt freshman – was outvoted at quarterback by Clemson veteran Tajh Boyd.

Georgia linebacker Jarvis Jones, LSU safety Eric Reid and South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney rounded out the SEC’s hefty representation on the defensive side of the ball.

Here’s a link to the entire 2012 AFCA FBS All-America team.

November 24, 2012

Pregame Pep Talk, Part II: X-Factors

Five X-Factors when the Tigers have the ball

#21 Tre Mason, 5-10, 198, so., RB, Auburn. We’ve discussed this during the week – as far as individual milestones go, really there’s none bigger than Mason needing 80 yards to get to 1,000. He’d be the fifth Auburn player to do that in Gene Chizik’s four seasons.

#80 Emory Blake, 6-2, 193, sr., Auburn. Speaking of milestones, and the number 80, Blake needs 33 yards to move into Auburn’s top-five all-time receiver. He needs 34 to reach 2,000 for his career. OC Scot Loeffler and QB Jonathan Wallace will be sure to get him there.

#51 Patrick Miller, 6-7, 288, fr., DB, Auburn. His name has been quiet recently. That’s a good thing for the young, previously-struggling tackle.

#32 C.J. Mosley, 6-2, 232, jr., LB, Alabama. Far and away the Tide’s top tackler, he’ll be Tre Mason’s worst enemy today.

#28 Dee Milliner, 6-1, 199, jr., DB, Alabama. Wallace has got to mark where No. 28 is on the field at all times.

Five X-Factors when the Crimson Tide has the ball

#4 T.J. Yeldon, 6-2, 216, fr., RB, Alabama. The former Auburn Tiger gets a chance to show the Plains up close what they’re missing.

#89 Michael Williams, 6-6, 269, sr., TE, Alabama. Security blanket for quarterback AJ McCarron to dump off in case Dee Ford and Corey Lemonier create some pressure. But also an excellent lead blocker to open lanes for Yeldon and Eddie Lacy.

#65 Chance Warmack, 6-3, 320, sr., LG, Alabama. Try not to get trucked by Warmack and Barrett Jones too much today, Angelo Blackson and Gabe Wright. You too, Jeff Whitaker and Ken Carter.

#55 Corey Lemonier, 6-4, 246, jr., DE, Auburn. Last chance to show NFL scouts he deserves to be a first-rounder. This junior season has not been a resounding audition.

#25 Daren Bates, 5-11, 215, sr., LB, Auburn. If he has a massive day, 18 tackles would tie him with Takeo Spikes for 10th all-time in the Auburn recordbooks. But more importantly, if Auburn has any prayer of an upset, Bates has shockingly been the defense’s top playmaker.

Five players you should watch since I can’t be at every game Saturday

#31 Kenny Miles, 5-9, 193, sr., RB, South Carolina. He’s got his starting job back since Marcus Lattimore went down. Of all the verbal bombs going back and forth between the head coaches, I loved this one the most from Clemson’s Dabo Swinney: “They’re never going to be Clemson, to be honest with you. No three-game win streak is going to change that … he’s exactly right. They ain’t Alabama. They ain’t LSU. And they’re certainly not Clemson. The university in this state always has been, always will be, Clemson. Print that. Tweet that. Whatever.” Get your popcorn ready, y’all.

#29 Jarvis Jones, 6-3, 241, jr., LB, Georgia. Tech runs that gimmicky triple option, so it’s important for the Bulldogs’ defense to fill their gaps all day long. This won’t be as great an opportunity for Jones to blow up a quarterback.

#17 Orwin Smith, 6-0, 202, sr., RB, Georgia Tech. Questionable with an ankle injury. The Yellow Jackets could really use the Central-Phenix City product, who’s averaging nine yards a tote for the team with more rushing yards than any other BCS school.

#14 Jaylen Watkins, 6-0, 187, jr., DB, Florida. One of the SEC’s top pass defenders will have to be active to slow Florida State’s top-flight attack.

#9 Marquis Lee, 6-1, 195, so., WR, USC. If the Trojans are to have a chance to shake up the national title picture again – another all-SEC affair, anyone? – without Matt Barkley, Lee’s gonna need to help out young QB Max Wittek big-time.


November 9, 2012

Behind Enemy Lines: Breaking down the Bulldogs by Seth Emerson, Macon Telegraph

All right, Emerson. Finally, we meet.

I shared my five (okay, six) thoughts on Auburn’s side of the ball for the Macon Telegraph. Likewise, @SethEmerson was gracious enough to lend some Georgia insight on five (fine, six) burning topics going into the 116th installment of the Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry.

Why six this week? Why not, I say. It’s rivalry week. Whatevs.

Aaron Brenner, Columbus Ledger-Enquirer: Alabama and LSU just played the Game To End All Games, and Texas A&M’s getting more and more pub as Johnny Manziel’s legend grows. But then, there’s Georgia over in the SEC East … seems like it’s kind of lurking. After the Florida upset and Ole Miss rout, is this definitively the Bulldogs’ peak so far this year? 

Seth Emerson, Macon Telegraph: Definitely, although it took until the second half against Ole Miss for that rout to happen. The Bulldogs have still yet to put together a well-played complete game on both sides of the ball, with the exception of the Vanderbilt game. Despite that, they are the highest-ranked one-loss team nationally, and still have an outside shot at a national title. Now that’s predicated on beating Alabama in the SEC championship game, which if it were Saturday I wouldn’t give the Bulldogs much of a shot. But they don’t play them Saturday, so they have three weeks to iron out things.

Brenner: How have the two freshman backs, Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall, had so much success as young centerpieces? And do you see Marshall breaking out of a big of a funk recently?

Emerson: Gurley and Marshall – or “Gurshall” as they’re being called – have been good for a number of reasons, starting with their ability to stay on the field. (As in, not get suspended or hurt.) They’re also different than what Georgia has had lately because they have that second gear that allows them to break off long runs. Even Isaiah Crowell seemed to have a problem getting into the secondary and past the safety. But Gurley and Marshall have been able to break open some long ones. Marshall (520 yards, 6.1 yards per carry) hasn’t really been in a funk, he just pales in comparison to Gurley, who now has six 100-yard games, and is the SEC’s top tailback rusher. (Manziel is the only one better in the SEC.) Gurley has a lot of skills, but what stands out to me is how rarely he gets tackled by the first guy. Besides that burst, the kid is also really hard to bring down.

Brenner: Tavarres King and Malcolm Mitchell will obviously have to step up with Marlon Brown’s career over. Is this receiving corps still more than capable against a young Auburn secondary?

Emerson: Yes. While Brown was tied for the team lead in catches, King is a senior who’s proven, and Mitchell would probably be leading the team in all receiving categories if he hadn’t been on defense the first four weeks of the season. The question, with Brown now joining Michael Bennett on the out-for-season list, is how much receiving depth will be a concern. Chris Conley, a sophomore with seven catches last year, showed a lot of promise last year, but got kind of lost in the shuffle this year. I think he’s the guy who will benefit now in terms of snaps.

Brenner: Jarvis Jones is looking at a second straight All-American campaign, all the more impressive since he commands more attention without Abry Jones around. He’s projected as a top-of-the-draft type of guy. Does he get better in clutch moments, like against Mizzou and Florida?

Emerson: I wouldn’t say there’s much deviation between the big and not-so-big games. He was also held sack-less against South Carolina, and this past weekend against Ole Miss. But he was held out of Florida Atlantic and Kentucky because of injuries, which were prime opportunities to pad his sack total. Either way, he’s on track to break David Pollack’s school record of 14. (Jones has 8.5). Jones is the real deal, a complete player who Georgia will move back into coverage when necessary and is also proficient against the run. Two years ago they had Justin Houston in the OLB spot, and Houston led the SEC in sacks until the postseason, when Nick Fairley overtook him. But Jones is a better all-around player.

Brenner: Speaking of Jones, Auburn OL Chad Slade was complimentary of Jones, but added “he can be stopped. It’s not that hard.” A Twitter follower of mine mentioned Georgia plays better when it’s called out, when the Bulldogs have a chip on their shoulder. Do you agree?

Emerson: Oh yeah. That was the story of the season until last week: Why the team got up for certain games because of outside motivation. Against Missouri, it was the “old man football” comments by a Mizzou player. Against Vanderbilt, it was last year’s postgame shenanigans between Todd Grantham and James Franklin. And against Florida it was their own player, safety Shawn Williams, calling out the unit. Those were Georgia’s best three games of the season. I’ll be curious if Slade’s comments ended up resonating. As you said, he was overall complimentary. But Jones was made aware right away – that day on the practice field – of what was said. Thing is, Jones doesn’t usually need the extra motivation. Georgia would have preferred that Slade say everyone on the defense was easier to block. In any case, Mark Richt seemed sure that the team didn’t need extra motivation anymore, so perhaps he’s right. We’ll see.

Brenner: BONUS QUESTION: Any chance Georgia screws this up Saturday, against its rival, with an SEC Championship game berth on the line?

Emerson: Before last week I pointed to the Auburn game as potentially more dangerous than Ole Miss, simply because it wasn’t in Athens, and the rivalry aspect of it. Then Georgia found itself down 10-0 at home to Ole Miss, before rallying. My sense is that game still has some trap qualities for the Bulldogs, especially if the Tigers get a decent home atmosphere and stay in the game for awhile. But on a simple Xs-and-Os level, I don’t see how Auburn scores more than, say, 17 points, while Georgia’s offense would seem to have a floor of 20 points. So there would have to be some wackiness, whether it be turnovers or special teams mistakes – which is certainly possible with Georgia. But the Bulldogs do seem to be on an upward trend.

November 7, 2012

The Hangover, Part IX: Scouting Georgia

Who: No. 5 Georgia (8-1, 6-1 SEC) at Auburn (2-7, 0-6)

When: Saturday, 6 p.m. CT

Where: Jordan-Hare Stadium (87,451) | Auburn, Ala.

TV: ESPN2 (Mark Jones, Brock Huard, Allison Williams)

Radio: Auburn IMG Sports Network (WVRK-FM 102.9 in Columbus)

Line: Georgia -15.5

What to know about the Bulldogs: Pure and simple, if they win, they’re in to the SEC championship game. If not, Florida goes, and it’s a disappointing season in Athens. So the stakes are fairly high … quarterback Aaron Murray, who will make his 37th consecutive start Saturday, is on track to become Georgia’s all-time most efficient (154.85) and accurate (61.3 percent) passer, as the junior continues to climb the school record charts in many major categories. He’s thrown seven TD passes in two games against Auburn … Georgia has forced 50 3-and-outs this year, a 5.5 per game average which ranks third in the country … two receivers, Michael Bennett and Marlon Brown, have torn their ACLs this year, while defensive end Abry Jones underwent season-ending ankle surgery … the Georgia offensive line has featured the same five starters all year long: from left to right, Kenarious Gates, Dallas Lee, David Andrews, Chris Burnette and John Theus.

When last they met: No. 14 Georgia 45, No. 24 Auburn 7 … Nov. 12, 2011 in Athens: Aaron Murray’s four touchdown passes, and Isaiah Crowell and Carlton Thomas combining for 259 rushing yards, throttled the Tigers. The Bulldogs gashed Ted Roof’s defense for 30 first downs and 528 total yards, converting on 12-of-15 third-down plays and holding the ball for nearly 41 minutes. Auburn quarterback Clint Moseley was 11-for-22 for 140 yards and threw a pick-six. In a few positive moments for the visitors, Emory Blake caught six balls for 101 yards, Michael Dyer ensured back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons, and C.J. Uzomah threw a 4-yard touchdown pass to Philip Lutzenkirchen in some TE-to-TE action.

All-time series: Auburn leads by a slim margin, 54-53-8. In Auburn, however, the Bulldogs hold a 15-9-2 lead, having won five of the past eight meetings at Jordan-Hare Stadium going back to a 23-all tie on Nov. 12, 1994. The series spent many years playing neutrally in Atlanta, Montgomery, Macon, Savannah and Columbus, not landing at Jordan-Hare until 1960, when the matchups began alternating years between campuses. Because of an SEC scheduling quirk, the game will take place again in Auburn next year. The Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry is the seventh oldest in the country, and within five years will move into the top four unless Kansas-Missouri, Kansas-Nebraska or Texas-Texas A&M kiss and make up.

Which Tiger is licking his chops: Junior defensive end Corey Lemonier, who made himself a lot of money the last time Auburn hosted a traditional rival under the lights. If he brings that same intensity Saturday that he did against LSU – and getting Dee Ford back on the other side of the line sure helps – Lemonier will verify Mark Richt’s words when Georgia’s coach called him one of the best in the league. Keep your eye on Gabe Wright, too. The Carver product continues to be talked up by defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder, and the Tigers desperately need some push up the middle from the DTs.

Who’s keeping the Auburn coaches up at night: Woof. Boy. Take your pick. Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray? Freshman running back Todd Gurley, who leads SEC tailbacks in rushing? Senior flanker Tavarres King? Freshman outside linebacker Jordan Jenkins? (At least Jenkins’ fellow OLB, Jarvis Jones (Carver), isn’t hard to stop. Chad Slade said so.) Seriously, Auburn offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler said there’s about 6-8 NFL players on that Bulldogs defense. Good luck out there, Jonathan Wallace.

Extra point: Two of Mark Richt’s former defensive coordinators are now on the Auburn sideline – VanGorder and secondary coach Willie Martinez. VanGorder’s son, Mack, is a redshirt freshman strong safety who transferred from West Virginia to Auburn upon his dad’s hiring this year. VanGorder’s daughter, Morgan, runs cross country and track at Georgia.

Extra-extra point: Better Twitter handle/play on his jersey number: Wright (@NineORhino) or Jones (@SacManJones_29)? You be the judge. Those Carver guys have some flair on the social media.


November 6, 2012

Chad Slade gives props to Jarvis Jones, but “you can stop him. It’s not that hard.”

AUBURN, Ala. — For the most part, Auburn sophomore right guard Chad Slade had only good things to say about Georgia junior outside linebacker Jarvis Jones.

But Slade threw in four words that might end up on a bulletin board or two in Athens.

On how to deal with Georgia’s 3-4 defense, Slade said, “You’ve got to know how to identify each front and make each call. Jarvis Jones, you know that he’s going to be one of the strong keys of their defense. As long as you know where he’s at and what the front is, we should be all good.

“You’ve got to be able to get your hands on him, block him. He’s a good player, but you can stop him. It’s not that hard. You’ve just got to go out there and make the calls, go out there, execute the calls and know that he’s probably going to be on the side where the tackle will be made. He’s the type of player who will be one of the impact players.”

Many Georgia foes haven’t been able to say “it’s not that hard” to slow Jones, a consensus All-American from Carver High who transferred from USC after the 2009 season. Projected as one of the top picks in next spring’s NFL draft, Jones is one of two players nationally with five forced fumbles, ranks tied for sixth in the country with 15 tackles for loss and tied for ninth with 8.5 sacks.

Jones had two sacks in last year’s 45-7 demolition of the Tigers, who totaled fewer than 200 yards in the beatdown at Sanford Stadium.

Auburn has allowed 72 tackles for a loss, sixth-worst in the country.

Jones recently had 13 tackles, three sacks and two forced fumbles in Georgia’s 17-9 victory over Florida, catapulting the Bulldogs (8-1, 6-1 SEC) into the driver’s seat for an SEC East championship and berth in the league title game.

Only one team stands between Georgia and that craved trip to Atlanta: Auburn (2-7, 0-6.) The Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry renews Saturday at 7 p.m. at Jordan-Hare Stadium on ESPN2.

“Having a lot of family from Georgia, having a cousin, Stacy, play in the Alabama-Georgia rivalry: I know how big it is,” said Slade, a lifelong Auburn fan. “I have some family that are Georgia fans and most of my family are Auburn fans because of Stacy. It’s just like the Iron Bowl.”

No fear: Georgia’s defense is a far cry from New Mexico State, so true freshman and Central-Phenix City product Jonathan Wallace can expect a tougher challenge in his second career start.

“It’s night and day,” Auburn coach Gene Chizik said. “The bottom line is he’ll study it, and he’ll know where they’re coming from. The speed and intensity with which they blitz and pressure and move around will be completely different than last week.

“But he won’t go out there and be fearful in any way, shape or form.”

So young, so good: The SEC All-Freshman squad should be a doozy to craft.

From Georgia tailbacks Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall, to Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel and Auburn commit turned Alabama tailback T.J. Yeldon, it’s been a year for youngsters to shine.

“I think this is a little bit of a unique year,” Chizik said. “Many young guys have come in and played very, very well. I think the level of skill from some of these guys coming out of high school in this league talent-wise is why the SEC is what it is.”

The 6-foot-1, 218-pound Gurley’s 95.2 yards per game leads SEC running backs. Marshall (5-11, 216) has cooled off in the past four weeks with just 92 rushing yards on 33 carries, but Auburn is wary of both freshman threats.

“The two young running backs are very explosive,” Chizik said. “I think they’ve really complemented each other well because one guy doesn’t have to carry it 35 times a game. They’re a little bit of a change-up. One’s a little bit bigger than the other, but they’re both extremely fast.”

Injury report: Tight end C.J. Uzomah will likely remain out with a broken finger this Saturday, while backup quarterback Clint Moseley is slowly regaining movement with his ankle in practice.

Cornerback Chris Davis (concussion) is “still on the bubble”, per Chizik. As for guys with undisclosed injuries, defensive end Dee Ford is returning to full strength while defensive tackle Jeffrey Whitaker “has got a chance” to return from a three-game absence.